A back injury is one of the most common injuries in construction. Because they do not seem serious at their onset, back injuries are often ignored until they’ve become unbearable. According to OSHA, four out of five manual material handling-related injuries involve the lower back.
The best way to prevent back injuries is by maintaining good workplace posture and proper lifting techniques.
The High Price of Back Injuries
OSHA notes that while back injuries do not result in work-related fatalities, they do cause a considerable amount of burden for sufferers. Back injuries also cost employers a significant amount of money. In fact, according to NIOSH, back injuries impact over 600,000 workers and cost workplaces about $50 billion dollars annually. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries also account for 25 percent of lost workdays in construction.
It’s easy to see why back injuries should be prevented at all costs, and the easiest way to avoid them is by maintaining proper back posture.
How to Maintain Good Workplace Posture
According to Harvard Health Beat, workers need to maintain the right posture by imagining a straight line passing through their body or by imaging a cord pulling their head toward the ceiling. When you’re doing this, be aware of your body’s alignment and check whether your chest, shoulders, and pelvis are aligned with your knees and ankles. Experts also encourage workers to imagine themselves as a ballerina, ice skater, or soldier at attention position.
Guidelines for Proper Lifting Procedures
Lifting materials unsafely can also cause workplace injuries. Follow these guidelines to safely lift objects:
- Do not try to lift loads beyond your capacity. Ask for assistance or use material handling equipment if the weight of the load is too much for you to handle.
- Put one foot forward and bend your knees perpendicular to the floor. When lifting, maintain your back’s normal arch and put the weight on your legs, not on your foot or heels.
- Don’t twist your back. Pivot one foot and turn your whole body.
- Do not reach for objects or lift to levels that are too high.
- Put the material down slowly while maintaining you back’s normal arch.
OSHA’s technical manual (OTM) Section VII: Chapter 1 offers additional insight on how employers can evaluate lifting tasks and minimize back-related problems. The manual, published by OSHA’s Office of Science and Technology Assessment, instructs employees on:
- How to calculate recommended weight limits for lifting tasks
- How to implement engineering and administrative controls
- Best practices that will help workers avoid back injuries.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to maintain good workplace posture and safely lift materials in the workplace, it’s time to take your knowledge to the next level. OSHA Campus offers a variety of safety courses, including our Construction Outreach Courses. Sign up for your training today!