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Safety Tips | Safe lifting

Avoid occupational back injuries

July 29, 2013

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 33 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2011. Additionally, BLS notes that for all occupations, the back was injured in 42 percent of reported MSD cases and required a median of seven days to recuperate.

The first step to preventing back injuries is to get in good physical shape and maintain it, the Washington-based Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America notes. Being overweight, especially when most of the excessive weight is carried in the abdomen, creates tremendous stress on the back. The organization also advises the following:

  • Become educated about avoiding back injuries on the job.
  • Stretch before work. A slightly elevated heart rate gets blood flowing to the muscles as well as to the discs between the vertebrae in the spine.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • When facing a specific task, always assess the load and decide if it can be handled by one person. Check for obstacles in the path. Set the task up to be as easy as possible.
  • Note that back belts do not prevent back injuries and can provide a false sense of security.
  • Keep in mind that some tasks can be done safer with mechanical equipment such as lifts or other lifting equipment.
  • When lifting, bend the knees and get as close to the load as possible. Keep the back straight and use the legs to do the heavy work. Avoid twisting when lifting, carrying or lowering the load. When carrying, keep the load as close to the body as possible. When finished, take a few seconds to straighten and stretch the back.

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