Back pain and injuries can be debilitating, resulting in loss of productivity in the workforce and a decreased quality of life for employees with an increased risk of depression. Employers also risk a rise in workers compensation costs. This is a significant issue for employers, as illustrated with the following statistics:
- More than one million back injuries are sustained in the workplace every year.
- Back injuries account for one in every five injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
- After the common cold, back injuries are the most common reason for missing work.
- U.S. workers who suffered ergonomic injuries required an average of 12 days to recuperate before returning to work.
- The average cost of a back injury related workers compensation claim is $40,000 to $80,000 per employee.
- The direct costs of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) average $15 to $18 billion per year, with indirect costs (such as cost of production losses or resulting management costs) increasing the costs for employers to more than $45 billion per year.
It is much easier to prevent back injuries from occurring than to repair them after the fact. Here are a few steps you and your employees can take today to keep your backs in good shape and avoid injury.
Strengthen your back and reduce stress with exercise. Having strong stomach and back muscles is important to help ease the work your back does on a daily basis. Simple back-toning exercises can help strengthen your back, improve your appearance, and reduce stress. Here are four simple exercises for strengthening your back: https://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/workouts/4-back-strengthening-exercises
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra force on back and stomach muscles. In order to compensate for extra weight, the spine can become tilted and stressed unevenly, possibly resulting in unnatural curvature of the spine. Extra weight in the abdomen can pull the pelvis forward and strain the lower back. Reduce strain and pain in your back by losing excess weight.
Maintain good posture. Having good posture enables us to walk, stand, sit, and lie in positions that put the least amount of strain on supporting ligaments and muscles. Poor posture increases the risk of injury and back pain and can be caused by incorrect working posture, unhealthy sitting and standing habits, stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, and high-heeled shoes. Pay attention to your postural habits in different situations, and work to correct them as necessary. Prevent back pain by sitting straight, with your back against the back of the chair, feet flat on the floor, and knees slightly higher than your hips. When standing, keep your head up and your shoulders back.
Use proper lifting techniques. Many back injuries can be prevented by practicing safe lifting techniques, paying attention to your surroundings while carrying a load, and not being afraid to admit if something is too heavy or bulky to handle on your own. Here are some recommendations to follow when lifting:
- Plan the move before lifting – check your chosen pathway and remove any obstructions.
- Test the weight of the load before lifting.
- Use lifting and carrying aids when needed, such as hand trucks, dollies, pallet jacks, or carts.
- Ask for help when needed.
- Align yourself correctly in front of the load with your feet straddling the load, one foot slightly in front of the other for balance.
- Bend at the knees, not the back, and keep your back straight.
- Get a firm grip with your hands or fingers. Do not attempt to lift something if your hands are greasy or wet.
- Wear protective gloves when lifting objects with jagged edges or sharp corners.
- Hold objects as close to your body as possible.
- Do not turn at the waist when lifting or carrying a load – pivot your feet and turn your entire body.
For more information on proper lifting techniques, preventing back injuries, and managing your workers compensation costs, contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor. Click here to learn more about improving employee productivity with ergonomics.