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Fight Back Against Work-Related Back Injuries

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So many safety topics are critical for preventing worker injuries. But across the board in all industries, perhaps the most critical is back safety training.

Why do your employees need to be trained in back safety?

·         One in 5 U.S. workers suffers a back injury on the job.

·         Back injuries are the second most common cause of days away from work, next to the common cold. According to BLS, there were nearly 200,000 reported back injuries that required days away from work in 2011.

·         Overall 80 percent of Americans will have a back injury that requires medical attention at some point in their lives, so the odds are you will, too.

·         Men and women are equally affected.

·         Back injuries are most frequently reported in working people beginning around age 30, and the risks increase with age. But even younger people can suffer back injuries on the job if they are out of shape.

·         Once your back is injured, it is more likely to be reinjured.

·         Some back injuries can result in chronic pain and permanent partial disability.

Common Causes of Injury

There are many causes of back injuries. Often, an injury occurs due to a combination of causes that weaken an employee’s back over a period of years until something is seriously damaged.

Improper lifting. Improper lifting technique is a major cause of back injuries, especially job-related injuries. Lifting a load improperly can cause a serious and immediate injury if your back is already overstrained or out of shape.

Awkward motions. Activities such as reaching, bending, and twisting are often cited as causes of back injury. Injury can be caused over time by wear and tear on the back or as a result of one sudden movement.

Physical condition. If an employee’s body and back are in poor condition, that worker is more likely to develop back problems and pain. This often happens when people who normally don’t use their back try to do something that requires a lot of lifting or other stress. This can easily result in a strain or sprain.

Excess weight. Being overweight or having a potbelly can put continuous stress on your back that will gradually weaken it and contribute to injury.

Poor posture. People often complain of back pain because they slept in an awkward position, or because they sat or stood in an awkward posture for too long. Slouching, slumping, hunching, and other habitually poor postures put stress on the back and over time can lead to pain and injury.

Medical conditions. An underlying medical condition can make the back more susceptible to injury. For example:

·         Degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis

·         Viral infections

·         Irritation to joints and discs

Safe Lifting

Probably the most common cause of back injuries on the job, of course, is improper lifting. So teaching employees the safe lifting technique can go a long way toward preventing injuries.

Here’s a simple five-step technique that can help reduce the risk of back injury.

·         Step 1. Stand close to the object with a wide stance. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, with toes pointing outward.

·         Step 2. Bend at the knees and hips, and try to maintain your body’s natural curve.

·         Step 3. Pull the load close to you and grip it firmly.

·         Step 4. Tighten your stomach, to act as a back support, and lift your head, which will help you lift with your legs rather than your back.       

·         Step 5. When you’re ready to lift, use your legs and keep your back straight.