Back safety in the workplace

Author: BLR

Back safety—what you don’t know CAN hurt you!

Back injuries can be extremely painful and long-lasting. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the back injuries of more than 1 million workers account for nearly 20 percent of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Only the common cold accounts for more lost days of work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a specific regulation for back safety, but training employees to lift safely is implied by the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The law requires employers to provide employees with a workplace that is “free of recognized hazards.” OSHA has stated that it will not focus its enforcement efforts on employers that have implemented effective ergonomic programs or that are making good-faith efforts to reduce hazards that cause worker strains and sprains. “Ergonomics” is the science of designing the job, equipment, and workspace to fit the worker. Back safety is a cornerstone of an effective ergonomics program.

Lifting Safety Procedures Prevent Major Injuries

Safe lifting procedures and load-carrying techniques are crucial to preventing painful and expensive injuries in the workplace. Unfortunately, most workers do not consistently use back safety practices, at great risk to their personal well-being. Back injuries are often caused by unsafe lifting and carrying of heavy or awkward objects, but are easily prevented. The most common types of job-related back injuries are:

  • Strain—overused or overstretched muscles
  • Sprain—torn ligaments from sudden movement
  • Herniated disk—loss of the spine’s cushioning ability from strain or age

A back safety program is key to dramatically reducing debilitating back injuries on the job.

Although improper lifting, carrying, and moving techniques are the primary cause of back injuries, significant contributing factors are workers who are in poor physical condition and overweight. Encourage your employees to maintain a healthy weight and good muscle tone through stretching exercises and other wellness programs.