Back injuries are the most common workplace injury, second only to the common cold as the most frequent excuse for missing work. While there’s still no cure for the common cold, there are ways to avoid back injuries.
Facts about back injuries
To help prevent back injuries, you must understand what causes them. Contrary to popular belief, anyone can be at risk for back injury, not only workers who lift heavy objects. Your physical health has a lot to do with protection against back injury.
Don't back down on fitness
The harder you work, the less likely you will be to have a back injury. Take the following into consideration:
Watch your every move
The best way to avoid back injury is to pay attention any time you lift, carry, reach or push. While everyone has a favorite lifting technique, some basic rules apply:
The push is on
Always push, do not pull, your load. One foot should be behind the other with your weight balanced between them. Keep your spine straight and use your leg muscles to move the load. If you have to pull, be careful. You can strain your neck, shoulder or back.
Ergonomics to the rescue
Ergonomic experts try to find the easiest way to do work to help relieve stress on your body, especially your back. Small improvements can greatly reduce your chances of back injury. For example, if you bend over to retrieve a part from a bin, place the bin at a higher level. This way, you do not have to bend so much. Try to reduce or avoid repetitive motions. Muscle fatigue can lead to overexertion, which is responsible for one-fourth of all work injuries. Take a break or temporarily change tasks to regain strength.
Be careful while carrying
Before you start carrying a load, plan the lift. Consider the task, the load, your individual capability, and the environment. Plan where you will walk. The path should be clear of obstacles so that you don’t slip or fall. If equipment such as a dolly is available, use it. Take extra care on platforms, ramps and loading docks. If you can’t see in front of you, get help. When you carry a load, remember to balance it. Try to divide smaller loads into two and carry them at your sides, one in each hand. Ask for help if you have to carry a heavy load. Never carry a load backward; it can throw off your balance.
Keep supplies you use regularly at an easy-to reach height. If you need to reach for an item, use a ladder or a step stool. To lift something from the floor to above waist level, carefully lift the load halfway, then change your grip to lift the item higher.