Back Injuries

The Problem

Preventing back injuries is a major workplace safety challenge. Lifting, placing, carrying, holding and lowering are all involved in manual materials handling (the principal cause of compensable work injuries)

Maximum Weights
The maximum weight recommended by OSHA and the Deptantment of Labor and Industries is 50 pounds, but a full keg of beer weighs over 160 pounds. Even shared by 2 people, this weight far exceeds the recommended maximums even under IDEAL conditions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 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 compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering borne by employees.

Moreover, though 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.

Back strain due to overexertion is one of the greatest causes of employee injury in the American workplace. Only the common cold fells more workers. In fact, 25% of workplace injuries are due to overexertion, according to the National Safety Council. NIOSH estimates that overexertion injuries cost American business 12 million lost workdays and $1 billion in compensation costs each year. Lower back injuries account for 60% of overexertion injuries. Nearly one-quarter of all workers’ compensation claims are for back injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OSHA estimates that at least one in five disabling work injuries is a back injury.

What can be done?

Ergonomic design has been proven to significantly reduce overexertion and back injuries. By applying ergonomic principles to work station design, equipment and worker movements, back strain can be virtually eliminated.

OSHA has several suggestions to help and one of these is: Installation of mechanical aids such as pneumatic lifts, conveyors, and/or automated materials handling equipment.