Many incidents of back injury at work, particularly those on the lower back, are the result of minor stresses that progressively build up over time. These cumulative stresses include sitting without adequate back support, repeated lifting, constant bending at the waist, uneven distribution of weight, performing work in an awkward position, twisting, and any other movements that put uneven pressure on the lower back. Here are some tips to help you avoid suffering a crippling back injury at work:
Performing your work in the best possible position is the single most important way to avoid cumulative stresses on your back. You significantly minimize your risk of developing a back injury if you can do your work with your back or spine in its relaxed or natural alignment. Whenever possible, you need to adjust your height relative to the height of your work. If you need to use a platform to stand on, make certain that the platform will be wide enough for you not to fall off the platform accidentally. Likewise, make certain your platform will not pose a tripping hazard to yourself and others.
Minimize the force you need to exert to perform your work. The less force you apply, the less stress on your back. Make certain the tools you use at work are well maintained and in good working condition. A sharp tool will always do the work faster and with less force. Never overestimate your lifting capacity. What you can lift 10 years ago may no longer be true today. Remember that your back gets weaker as you age. Whenever possible, always use a lifting device or get somebody to help you carry a heavy load. Paying an additional guy to help you is still much more economical than getting hospitalized and off work for two weeks due to a back injury.
You can avoid doing too much bending and lifting at work simply by placing materials on an elevated platform, preferably at chest level.
Avoid repeatedly twisting at the waist, especially while carrying a load. This puts significant uneven stresses on your back. Taking an extra step or two doesn’t waste much time, but it will definitely save you from suffering a painful back injury at work.
When you need to lift a load, hug the load, keeping the weight as close to your body as possible. Holding the load X distance away from your body’s center of mass multiplies the stress on your back by a factor of X. And (pardon the cliché) use your legs, not your back, when hugging and lifting a load.
Simply stated, these tips tell you that every time you put your back in a situation where your back is stretched, compressed, bent, or twisted beyond its natural curvature, you are increasing your risk of developing a painful and disabling back injury at work.