Employees are at risk for many types of injuries, but with proper training and diligent inspections, companies can avoid many of these hazards. One of the most common problems at work is a back injury; it’s the second most common cause of lost work time, with the common cold being No. 1.
OSHA does not have any specific requirements for back safety training or back injury prevention programs, but back injury has important workers’ compensation cost considerations, says Brent A. Bates, Director of Safety Services at Hortica®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group.
To keep employees healthy and to avoid work stoppages, it’s a good idea to develop a back injury prevention program, including injury prevention techniques, available lifting equipment, proper lifting techniques, and lifting hazards specific to your workplace.
“Everything you do both at work and at home impacts your back,” Bates says. “Most back injuries can be prevented if you always think defensively about your back. When people injure their backs, not only does it impact their work, it impacts every facet of their lives. A back injury can prevent you from doing many of the things you love to do and can even make daily movements near impossible.”
Although statistics show that back injuries occur more often at home than they do at work, it’s a business owner’s duty to keep the risk of injury low while at work, especially since injured backs are often subject to re-injury, he adds.
Make sure your employees know how to properly lift. Don’t assume that it’s common knowledge. Here are some tips you can share with your employees.
- Know where you are going to lift a load: Pre-plan your lift.
- Get a firm footing: Keep your feet apart (shoulder width) for a stable base and good balance; point toes out.
- Bend at your knees and hips: Don't bend at the waist. Keep the principles of leverage in mind. Don't do more work than you have to. Maintain your three natural back curves.
- Lift with your legs: Let your powerful leg muscles do the work of lifting, not your weaker back muscles. Maintain your three natural curves.
- Lift smoothly; don't jerk as you lift: Sudden movements and weight shifts can injure your back.
- Keep the load close: Don't hold the load away from your body. The closer it is to your spine, the less force it exerts on your back.
- Keep your back upright: Whether you are lifting or putting down the load, don't add the weight of your body to the load. Your nose and your toes should be facing up when lifting.
- Turn with your feet: Avoid twisting; it can cause injury.
Post this information in areas where employees are more likely to be lifting objects. Remind them of these steps during routine safety meetings. Remember to treat your back with respect at all times. “One wrong move could cause you a lifetime of pain,” Bates explains.
— Kelli Rodda
Disclaimer: This document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should act on the information contained in this document without advice from a local professional with relevant expertise.
Disclosure: Hortica® property and casualty coverages are underwritten, and loss control services are provided, by Florists’ Mutual Insurance Company and Florists’ Insurance Company, members of the Sentry Insurance Group. For more information, visit hortica.com. Policies, coverages, benefits and discounts are not available in all states. See policy for complete coverage details.