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Preventing Back Injuries in the Workplace

Preventing Back Injuries in the Workplace

Back injuries are a common problem in the workplace. When discussing ways to prevent back injuries, the key thing to remember is that these problems are much easier to avoid than to fix once the damage is done. Today’s blog offers a few best practices to help avoid injury and reduce lost productivity.

MAKE IT EASY BY USING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT

Whenever possible, reduce or eliminate the manual handling of materials. Can these same tasks be accomplished with the use of a mechanical aid? These can include cranes, hoists, lift tables, dollies, carts, hand trucks, and forklifts. When using mechanical aids, be sure your workers know these safety rules-of-thumb:

ARRANGE YOUR SPACE

Whenever possible, arrange work environments so they are “back friendly.” The safest lifting zone is between an individual’s shoulders and waist because it eliminates the need for reaching or bending. When storing objects on shelves, the heaviest objects should be placed at this “middle” height, with higher and lower shelves reserved to store objects that weigh less.

Loads should not be put down on the floor. Use a table or elevated surface instead to eliminate the need to reach down.

It’s a good idea to stretch before doing any lifting. This gets the muscles warmed up for the work ahead and helps prevent painful strains and sprains. Workers who do a lot of lifting throughout the day should also take short “micro-breaks.” It’s a chance to rest the back and to do additional stretches that keep the muscles loose.

SIT AND STAND UP STRAIGHT LIKE MOM ALWAYS SAID

Posture plays a big role in back safety. When people get into the habit of using poor posture, it becomes difficult to sense when the body is aligned properly. A simple exercise or test can help regain a “feel” for proper alignment. Have your workers give this a try, perhaps at your next scheduled safety meeting:

When posture is aligned, the space between your back and the wall should be about the thickness of your hand. If there’s too much space, tighten your abdominal muscles so that the curve in your lower back is flatter. If there’s too little space, give your hand more room by arching your back.

Once you’ve achieved a good “fit” for your hand, step away from the wall while trying to maintain this posture. This new posture may feel unnatural at first, but it will become easier with practice. From time to time, it’s a good idea to use the wall test to recheck your posture.

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