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Albright College

TIP OF THE MONTH
June

Back Safety

Did you know that according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, back injuries are the #1 workplace safety problem (123Lift)?

Small bones known as vertebrae make up the spine or backbone. Cushions, known as “discs” lie between each vertebrae. Most of the body’s weight is held by the lower back. Minor problems with the bones, muscles, ligaments or tendons around the spine can cause pain when you bend, stand or move around.

Back pain is often caused by deterioration of the discs. Immediate injuries to the back can be caused by tearing or straining the ligaments and muscles around the spine. The muscles can spasm due to stress or tension. An injured back decreases your ability to move your head, neck, hips and limbs. Injuries to the back cause severe pain and time away from work. At times physical therapy or surgery is needed to correct or lessen the back injury.

Bending or leaning over to pick something up can cause tremendous pressure on the back. One is often surprised at the amount of force placed upon the back. For example, if the average upper torso weighs 105 pounds and a person lifts a 10 pound object, 1,150 pounds of pressure is placed upon the lower back. Given these numbers it is easy to see how repetitive lifting and bending can quickly cause problems to the back. Back pain and damage can also be caused by leaning forward while sitting at a desk or table.

There are contributing factors that lead to your risk of back injury. These factors include:
  • Poor physical condition
  • Poor posture
  • Extra weight
  • Stress
  • Overdoing it
Common Causes of Back Injuries:
  • Heavy Lifting
  • Twisting at the waist while lifting or holding a heavy load
  • Reaching and lifting
  • Lifting or carrying objects with awkward or odd shapes
  • Working in awkward, uncomfortable positions
  • Sitting or standing too long in one position
  • Slipping on a wet floor or ice
  • Sleeping in a bad position or on a mattress that lacks support
How to Prevent Back Injuries:
  • Place objects on an elevated surface instead of the floor.
  • The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and your waist. Place heavier objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on higher or lower shelves.
  • Use carts and dolleys to move objects instead of carrying them.
  • If possible push objects instead of pulling them.
Use Proper Lifting Procedures:
  • When lifting, allow your legs to do the work; bend at your knees.
  • Take a balanced stance with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  • Squat down to lift objects; keeping your heels off the floor.
  • Secure your grip on the object you are lifting; use your palms to grip objects, not your fingers.
  • Keep the object you are lifting as close to you as possible. Lift gradually using your leg, abdominal and buttock muscles. Keep your back and neck straight by tucking your chin. Look straight ahead.
  • Once you are standing with your object in hand turn your feet in the direction you want to walk; don’t twist at your waist while carrying the object.
  • When lowering the object to the floor or table use the same techniques as when lifting; in reverse of course.
  • Think about the weight of the object you are lifting and try to lessen the load if possible.
  • Use handles if possible
  • Always get help if you need it!
Measures to Avoid Injury:
  • When doing work that may be hard on your back always stretch your back muscles first.
  • Allow yourself recovery time between lifts and remember to slow down.
  • Take a one minute stretch break when you need one.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress
And of Course…exercise keeps your back strong, healthy and flexible. A properly exercised back is less likely to be an injured back!

Get in shape at the Schumo Center for Fitness and Wellbeing!

Strengthen your stomach muscles, lose a little weight, eat right, increase your flexibility, and stretch as often as possible to decrease injury or to recover more quickly from injury.

References:
http://www.123lift.com/back-safety
http://www.pp.okstate.edu/ehs/modules3/back/A3-Back.htm
http://www.vcu.edu/oehs/fire/safetytech.html

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