Safety Share – Back Care Matters

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Why Back Care Matters

Back pain is a major cause of lost workdays and represents (on average) nearly a quarter of lost-time injuries and half of all compensation costs, both long-term and short term.

Your back is not like other tools that you can replace when they’re damaged. Once you have injured your back, it will affect both your work life and your home life. Prevention of back pain costs much less than the treatment of back pain and can have a major impact on the general quality of life of many workers.

Almost everyone has suffered back pain at some time. Common causes include but are not limited to sitting improperly, heavy lifting, falls, motor vehicle incidents and whole body vibration. To understand how often the back is used, just think that every time you bend, your back lifts approximately 70% of your body weight even when you aren’t lifting anything.

Ergonomic Concerns

It is important to remember that it is not necessarily the weight of the load that causes the injuries, but rather the frequency and duration of handling. If the load is heavy, the frequency and duration of the lift will have to decrease. The human body is made for a variety of tasks, so it’s important to have variety in the tasks you do to prevent repetitive stress and keep your body active and flexible.

After you have been sitting or stooping for a long period of time you should not lift immediately, as this puts a great deal of stress on your back muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is recommended that you stand straight for a couple minutes to allow the natural curve in your back to realign. It is also important to make sure you prepare for lifting by warming up your muscles.

Best Practices

  • Start by assessing the shape and size of the load. If you think you will be unable to do it on your own, ask for help. (A two-person lift is preferable for weight distribution and manoeuvring capabilities.)
  • Make sure the load is free or loose and able to be moved.
  • Check the travel route to make sure it is free of obstacles, debris and any slip or trip hazards.
  • Keep the load close to your body.
  • Do not twist while handling the load, as this will place extreme strain on your back.
  • Make sure you have firm footing, a wide stance, good grip and keep your arms straight.
  • Bend your knees as much as possible. If the load is large, you may have to stand slightly over it to start the lift.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and try to tuck your chin into your chest.
  • Initiate the lift with your body weight and lift with your legs, as they are a larger and stronger muscle group.
  • If you are unable to use a smooth and slow lifting approach, use momentum to help bring the load closer to your body.