Protecting your back

Just because low back pain is a leading cause of disability and lost work time doesn’t mean you and your employer have to be among the sufferers. There are a number of ways to prevent the occurrence of this common and costly complaint.

First, it is helpful to recognize that people who develop low back pain often start out with poorer physical and mental health than those who do not experience back pain, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. It is not easy to convince a depressed, overweight, deconditioned individual that increased activity will most likely reduce, not exacerbate, their pain. That’s why prevention is essential.

Optimally a prevention mindset is established at a young age. Prevention habits include daily physical activity, proper nutrition, adequate rest, good posture, stress management, and knowing when and how to lift safely.

In the workplace, intervention efforts require strong management commitment and employee recognition of the value of back injury prevention.

Recommendations include the use of:
• Supply handling systems that reduce the need to repetitively bend lift, reach and push
• Mechanical-assist devices and ergonomically correct tools, equipment and workstations
• Driver’s seat designs that reduce vibration and improve seated posture
• Consistent onsite stretching and strengthening programs
• Inspections to minimize slip, trip and fall hazards
• Job rotation and frequent, short breaks (30 seconds every 15 minutes) to allow employees to move around
• Weight loss and smoking cessation programs

A reminder: When lifting and carrying something heavy or awkward, be sure to bend your legs, tighten your core and keep the object close to your body. If it’s too much to handle alone, get help.

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Often an overlooked subject, poor ergonomics leads to millions of dollars of workers’ compensations costs every year. UL offers a library of courses that address the leading factors contributing to ergonomic illness in both the “blue-collar” workforce as well as the office environment.