Prevent Back Injuries at Work
It’s essential to take the proper steps to protect your back while performing your work. Many workers who have injured their back at work can experience years of discomfort and sometimes even a disability. Many factors can contribute to back injuries, including repetitive motion over time, lifting loads that are too heavy, and even improper lifting techniques. To prevent back injuries, it’s important to practice proper lifting techniques. Remember to lift with your legs and not with your back. Avoid leaning or bending over for extended periods, as this can cause weakness in the lower back over time. It’s also good practice to stretch and exercise your back before starting your work each day. If an item is too heavy to lift, ask a co-worker to help you.
The importance of back injury prevention
The nature of construction work often leads to back problems. More than one-third of the construction workers report back injuries as it requires involvement in physically demanding tasks. Of all the construction-related injuries, 25% of the reported injuries are back injuries of varying severity. Most of the injuries involve back strain and muscle stress, and pull. These injuries result from intense activity, including lifting, climbing, standing, pulling, and pushing. However, the common accidents of slips and fall can incur severe injury to the back. Slips and falls can cause spinal fractures, herniation, and paralysis.
Although the industry requires working around heavy loads, it doesn’t mean you have to put excess strain on your body. The possibility of injuring yourself could be reduced through proper activity planning, changing the working technique, and practical training of workers and supervisors.
- Proper planning
It is vital to cut down on the task of carrying heavy loads to reduce back injuries. Most back injuries and pain take 1 to 4 weeks to heal, which means a significant income loss to the worker. Reduce the load-carrying activity by having the materials delivered close to the place where they are needed. Store the necessary construction material on waist-level as mason have scaffolds designed for this purpose. Keep the floor dry and clean to avoid slip and fall accident. The supervisors must allow for short rest breaks in case the worker is tired. Physical fatigue makes the worker more prone to injury.
- Load-carrying equipment
When it comes to moving the material from one spot to another, use forklifts to hoist it and place it in a cart or dollies to carry the load around. Train the workers for proper usage of carrying tools and equipment to help them move and shift the odd-shaped loads. Load-carrying equipment with good grip and firm handles is preferred for load lifting. In case the material weighs more than 50 pounds, don’t lift or forklift it alone; ask your co-worker to assist you.
- Careful techniques
Make sure to maintain a straight and firm posture when lifting and to lower the materials. In case you have to change posture, it is preferred to turn the whole body instead of twisting it. Jerk-lifting, the load, can sprain the back and incur muscle pull. When it comes to lifting the load directly off the ground, make sure to take support from something firm and sturdy by leaning. Try avoiding bending the back completely in the downward position; rather, kneel on one knee and lift the upwards as you stand up. To optimize injury prevention, make sure to wear and use proper safety gear.
Apart from that, most contractors ask the workers to wear a back belt to prevent and recover from the back injury. However, a recent study by NIOSH reported that there is no significant evidence for back injury prevention and recovery through back belts. So, if a medical professional does not prescribe it, don’t depend on the belt for injury protection.