Since I am a Health and Safety professional, I thought it would be good to intimate my readers about the dangers of back injuries. Back injuries do not only occur at the workplace however. We lift heavy objects in and around our homes from time to time. The factors contributing to back injuries, causes of back injuries and prevention of back injuries are enumerated in the piece below. Read on !
According to a UK report, more than one million workers suffer back injury accounting for one fifth of all workplace injuries/illnesses and that one fourth of all compensation claims involve back injuries which cost employers billions of dollars. Back injuries are exceedingly painful, difficult to heal and with a tendency to reoccur if one has suffered a previous one.
The human spine vertebrae is held together by ligaments and muscles are attached to the vertebrae by tendons and between each vertebrae is a CUSHION known as a DISC. Opening in each line up to form a long hollow canal, where the spinal cord runs through from the base of the brain. Nerves from the spinal cord branch out and leave the spine through the spaces between the vertebrae. The lower part of the back holds most of our body weight thus every time one bends over to lift a heavy object or sit leaning forward, it puts tremendous pressure on the spine and over time, the discs between one’s vertebrae can start to wear out and become damaged.
Factors that contribute to back injury include but not limited to the following
- Poor physical condition
- Poor posture
The stomach provide a lot of support needed by the back. Weak and flabby stomach muscles will therefore not give all the support your back needs especially when carrying or lifting heavy objects. A good physical condition is thus essential for preventing strains, sprains and other injuries.
To maintain a good posture, one must maintain the back in its natural “S” shaped curve and this can be achieved by avoiding leaning forward (unsupported) when sitting or hunching over while standing.
The more you weigh, the more stress it puts on your back every time you bend over (on a 10:1) ration. It is therefore very important to maintain an ideal weight to prevent back injuries.
The common causes of back injuries in the workplace are:
- Heavy lifting especially repetitive lifting over a long period of time
- Twisting at the waist while lifting or holding a heavy load
- Reaching and lifting over your head
- Lifting or carrying objects with awkward or odd shapes
- Working in odd uncomfortable positions (tasks that require you bend over long periods)
- Sitting or standing too long in one position
- Slipping on a wet floor
- Bad sleeping positions e.t.c
To prevent back injuries, the best method is to develop habits that reduce the strain exerted on the back. Such practices includes the following:
- Always avoid lifting and bending whenever you can. Rather place objects up off the floor. That way you won’t have to reach down to pick them up again. The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and waist. Put heavier objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on lower or higher shelves.
- Use carts and dollies to move objects, instead of carrying them yourself. Note: It is better to push a cart, dolly, lawnmower, wheelbarrow than to pull it. However if you have to pull it, consciously force yourself to tighten your stomach muscles and try to maintain good body posture. Use cranes, hoists, lift tables and other lift-assist devices whenever you can.
- Use proper lifting procedures. Bending your knees, keeps your spine in a better alignment. Take a balanced stance with your feet about shoulder width apart. One foot behind the object and the other next to it. Squat down to lift the object, but keep your heels off the floor. Get as close as you can to the object. Use your palms (not your fingers) to get a secure grip on the load. Lift gradually (without jerking) using your leg, abdominal and buttock muscles. Keep your chin tucked in so as to keep a relatively straight back and neck line. Once you are standing, change directions by pointing your feet in the direction you want to go and turning your whole body. Avoid twisting at your waist while carrying a load. Use same guidelines in reverse when putting a load down.
- Reduce the amount of weight lifted. It is better to carry loads in batches.
- Use handles and lifting straps.
- Get help if the shape is too awkward or if the object is too heavy for you to lift and move by yourself!