Back Safety Tips and Injury Prevention
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries.
Certain actions are more likely to cause back injuries than others. Anytime you find yourself doing one of these things, you should think:
DANGER! My back is at risk!
- Heavy lifting…especially repetitive lifting over a long period of time.
- Twisting at the waist while lifting or holding a heavy load.
- Reaching and lifting…over your head, across a table, or out the back of a truck.
- Lifting or carrying objects with awkward or odd shapes
- Working in awkward, uncomfortable positions… gardening, kneeling, tasks that require you to bend over for long periods of time… Also, sitting or standing for too long without shifting.
Preventing Back Injuries
The best way to prevent back injuries is to develop habits that reduce the strain placed on the back. There are some basic things you can do to help.
When you find yourself in one of these situations, take measures to protect your back by using proper lifting procedures, getting help, turning with your feet instead of with your waist, or taking short breaks to stretch
Avoid Lifting and Bending Whenever You Can!
Place objects up off the floor. If you can set something down on a table or other elevated surface instead of on the floor, do it so you won’t have to reach down to pick it up again. The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and your waist. Put heavier objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on lower or higher shelves. Use carts and dollies to move objects, instead of carrying them yourself. (Remember that it is better on your back to push carts than it is to pull them.) Use cranes, hoists, lift tables, and other lift-assist devices whenever you can.
Use Proper Lifting Procedures
You can’t always avoid lifting, but there are ways to reduce the amount of pressure placed on the back when you do so. By bending the knees, you keep your spine in a better alignment, and you essentially take away the lever principle forces. Instead of using your back like a crane, you allow your legs to do the work.
- Take a balanced stance with your feet about a shoulder-width apart. One foot can be behind the object and the other next to it.
- Use your palms (not just your fingers) to get a secure grip on the load. Make sure you’ll be able to maintain a hold on the object without switching your grip later.
- Squat down to lift the object, but keep your heels off the floor. Get as close to the object as you can.
- Lift gradually (without jerking) using your leg, abdominal and buttock muscles and keeping the load as close to you as possible. Keep your chin tucked in so as to keep a relatively straight back and neck line.
- Once you’re standing, change directions by pointing your feet in the direction you want to go and turning your whole body. Avoid twisting at your waist while carrying a load.
By following these lifting guidelines and by practicing good body/back management, you can prevent back injuries on the job and at home.
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