The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that nearly 20% of all workplace injuries are back injuries. Back injury prevention is relatively easy if workers take certain precautions.
Back Injury Prevention Measures:
1. Wear proper clothing. When lifting, grip is important. Wearing well-fitting gloves with a gripping surface will help maintain a good hold on objects while lifting. Shoes or boots with gripping soles will also help maintain balance and stability while lifting.
2. Preparation is key. Before lifting, determine whether the object even needs to be lifted. If you have access to lifting devices such as dollies, carts, pallet jacks or other lifting equipment, use them. The idea is to get the load as close to the destination as possible with the least physical effort possible.
3. Reduce the weight if you can; if you can split a load into two or more portions, do that.
4. Try to adjust the load height. Lifting from the floor will cause more stress to your body than if you lift from waist-height. By that same note, if you lift an object that’s higher than your shoulders, an injury is more likely.
5. Plan out the shortest, most obstacle-free route you can take.
6. Stretch before lifting – Here are some examples of stretching exercises that can help prepare your body for lifting and prevent injury:
Doorway Stretch – Stretches the chest, shoulders and upper back:
Side Bends – Stretches your abdominal muscles and hips:
Wall Squats – An easy way to stretch your lower back and upper legs:
Shoulder and Neck Stretches – Loosen the neck and shoulder:
Hip, Hamstring and Groin Stretch
7. When lifting:
- Bend your knees, not your waist
- Keep your back straight
- Hold the object you’re lifting as close to your body as possible
- Gradually straighten your legs as you lift
- Shift your feet to navigate around obstacles; don’t twist your body
- Do not lift with your feet too close together
- Do not round your lower back
- Do not lift or carry an unbalanced load
- Do not lift objects overhead with your neck and/or back arched
- Do not lift or carry a load that is too heavy for you; get help from a co-worker when necessary
- Do not lift directly after a long period of sitting or slouching
8. Exercise regularly to keep your back in good shape
Following these suggestions can prevent lifting injuries, keep your body healthy, and generally make lifting easier. SafetySkills has created a comprehensive back injury prevention course that covers the following topics:
- Controls that can help avoid back injury
- Elimination of lifting hazards
- Substitution strategies to make lifting easier
- Implementing engineering controls
- Implementing administrative controls
- Using personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent back injuries
Download the Back Injury Prevention infographic for a quick reference on preventing back injuries in the workplace.