Back Injuries are very common in any workplace, and especially in a physically demanding job like construction. More than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, accounting for one of five workplace injuries. Since back injuries often require physical therapy to correct, they account for a majority of workers compensation claims.
Back injuries are categorized as Musculoskeletal injuries, which means any injury to the muscles, nerves, tendons, joins, cartilage, and spinal discs. (Sprains/strains/tears, back pain, carpal tunnel, hernia)
Where do we see back injuries?
- An individual lifting a heavy or awkward object
- Not waiting for help from someone else, or to much pride to ask for help
- Repetitive lifting throughout the day
- Twisting while carrying an object
- Poor lifting techniques like lifting with the back instead of with legs
How to Eliminate Back Injuries
Working through a Job Hazard Assessment and the Hierarchy of Controls will help you decide the best course of action for your tasks.
Eliminate – The best way to stop yourself or others from an ergonomic issue is to remove the person from doing the physical lifting. Use equipment such as dollies, wheelbarrows or forklifts whenever possible. Also breaking down large/heavy objects into smaller loads.
Engineering Controls – This is referred to as Ergonomic changes. When doing a repetitive motion throughout the day, making changes to the work environment to ease the physical strain on the person doing the work such as setting up and organizing materials close to the site, installing mechanical lifting devices, conveyor belts, storing tools at waist level to avoid picking them up off the ground.
Administrative Controls – These are the rules you set as a company, they only work when they are enforced and trained on. Example: Any item over 80 pounds needs to be partner/team lifted
Personal Protective Equipment – Lifting belts tend to give a false sense of security and strength, they are not recommended unless the user can continue to use proper technique. Tool manufacturers have been developing Exoskeleton lift assist devices which are great for repetitive overhead work like hanging drywall, installing ductwork/conduit/sprinklers etc.
Back Injuries can happen to anyone regardless of your fitness level or experience. It is often people who think they can lift more that get hurt. Having a big ego doesn’t make the box any lighter or the path any less dangerous. A back injury could put you out of work for a few days to a few months. Is picking up that rock really worth not being able to pick up your children or ruining your golf trip. If buying the right equipment is out of the question, check out the CLINK app and find an affordable rental near you.
Another popular Toolbox Talk on this topic is Recording Injuries.