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Six Steps to Prevent Back Injuries

By Michael Rich

Preventing back injuries is a vital aspect of protecting the probability and productivity of a workplace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), estimates more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, accounting for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses.

These back injuries are estimated to consume 25 percent of all workmen's compensation claims, costing employers billions of dollars each year. Of these injuries four out of five of these injuries were to the lower back, and three out of four occurred while the employee was lifting.

According to the BLS more than one-third of these injuries could be prevented through better job design.

While no approach has been found for totally eliminating back injuries caused by lifting, here are six quick tips that can limit the probability of injury.

1. Strength Testing: Employers should be aware of the strength of your employees. Do not ask the smallest person on the staff to lift the heaviest boxes.

2. Stretching: We all remember for our elementary P.E. classes the importance of stretching. As we age it is important to do some light stretches before performing heavy lifts. These stretches could be a quick couple toe touches and twist at the waist.

3. Limit Size of Loads: It is important whenever possible to limit the size of a load the employee is carrying. A simple way of doing this is to not allow employees to carry more than two boxes at a time. It might necessitate a few more trips, but the cost far outweighs the risk.

4. Adjusting the height heaviest objects: The most dangerous lifts are those that occur below knee level or above shoulder level. For this reason you should consider reorganizing your shelves so the heaviest objects are located on the middle shelving units, medium weight on lower shelves and lightest items on top shelves.

5. Training on Proper Lifting Techniques: It is important that your employees practice safe lifting techniques to avoid injury. A safe lift involves keeping the object as close to the body as possible, lifting with the legs and not twisting the body during the lift. To further ensure safe lift employees should always look forward when performing the lift. This will help to maintain proper form.

6. Siting/Standing: Employees who constantly sit should keep station at proper height and stand up to stretch every couple hours. Employees constantly on their feet should have proper footwear and there should be mats or floor padding in place to prevent back strain.

Michael Rich is a safety writer and researcher for Safety Services Company, the largest supplier of safety training materials in North America. To learn more about the safety solutions they offer visit

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