Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back Injuries and Safe Lifting


Preventing back injuries is a major workplace safety challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Further, one-fourth of all worker's compensation claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering borne by employees.

Moreover, though lifting, placing, carrying, holding and lowering are involved in manual materials handling (the principal cause of recordable work injuries) the BLS survey shows that four out of five of these injuries were to the lower back, and that three out of four occurred while the employee was lifting.

No approach has been found for totally eliminating back injuries caused by lifting, though it is felt that a substantial portion can be prevented by an effective back safety training and control program and ergonomic design of work tasks.

Suggested administrative controls include:

- Training employees to utilize lifting techniques that place minimum stress on the lower back.

- Physical conditioning or stretching programs to reduce the risk of muscle strain.

Suggested engineering controls include:

- A reduction in the size or weight of the object lifted. The parameters include maximum allowable weights for a given set of task requirements; the compactness of a package; the presence of handles, and the stability of the package being handled.

- Adjusting the height of a pallet or shelf. Lifting which occurs below knee height or above shoulder height is more strenuous than lifting between these limits. Obstructions which prevent an employee's body contact with the object being lifted also generally increase the risk of injury.

- Installation of mechanical aids such as pneumatic lifts, conveyors, and/or automated materials handling equipment.

In one study it was determined that at least one-third of recordable back injuries could be prevented through better job design (ergonomics).

Other factors include frequency of lifting, duration of lifting activities, and type of lifting, as well as individual variables such as age, sex, body size, state of health, and general physical fitness.


  1. Very informative article. Back safety is one of the most important aspects of personal safety. Many bumps and bruises can be fixed by modern medicine, but a bad back is generally a permanent condition. So, don't forget your Back Support Belts.

  2. I disagree with the back support belts. These will sometimes give the lifter the idea that they can lift more than they should, because they have "the back support belt" on .