Saturday, June 13, 2009
Back injuries at work
Back pain is one of the most common work-related injuries and is often caused by ordinary work activities such as sitting in an office chair or heavy lifting. Applying ergonomic principles - the study of the workplace as it relates to the worker - can help prevent work-related back pain and back injury and help maintain a healthy back. The goal of an ergonomics program in industry is to adapt the workplace to a specific worker, dependent on the job description, required tasks and physical make up of the employee performing those tasks. Two types of situations typically cause people to begin having back pain or to sustain a back injury while on the job: 1. Non-accidental injury, where pain arises as a result of normal activities and requirements of the task. Poor body mechanics (such as slouching in an office chair), prolonged activity, repetitive motions, and fatigue are major contributors to these injuries. This may occur from sitting in an office chair or standing for too long in one position. 2. Accidental injury results when an unexpected event triggers injury during the task. A load that slips or shifts as it is being lifted, and a slip and fall or hitting one’s head on a cabinet door are typical examples. These accidents can jolt the neck, back and other joints with resulting muscle strain or tearing of soft tissue in the back. Any job that involves heavy labor or manual material handling may be in a high-risk category. Manual material handling entails lifting, but also usually includes climbing, pushing, pulling and pivoting, all of which pose the risk of injury to the back. Ergonomics is essential...make sure you include it in all inspections and risk assessments.