SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Back Safety and Lifting
Back injury is one of the most common workplace
injuries, and can be caused by a wide range of
activities, from sitting in a chair all day or heavy to
awkward lifting. The force is against you: Protecting your
back from injury, or avoiding further injury to an existing
back problem requires thought, common sense and information.
The Forces Involved
The amount of force you place on your back in lifting
may surprise you. Think of your back as a lever. With the
fulcrum in the center, it only takes ten pounds of pressure
to lift a ten pound object. If you shift the fulcrum to one
side, it takes much more force to lift the same object. Your
waist acts like the fulcrum in a lever system, on a 10:1
ratio. Lifting a ten pound object puts 100 pounds of pressure
on your lower back. When you add in the 105 pounds
of the average human upper torso, lifting a ten pound
object actually puts 1,150 pounds of pressure on the
lower back. If you were 25 pounds overweight, it would
add an additional 250 pounds of pressure on your back
every time you bend over.
Common Causes of Back Injuries
Anytime you find yourself doing one of these things, you
should think: DANGER! My back is at risk!
Try to avoid heavy lifting, especially repetitive lifting over
a long period of time.
- Twisting at the waist while lifting or holding a heavy
load, this frequently happens when using a shovel.
- Reaching and lifting over your head, across a table, or
out the back of a truck.
- Lifting or carrying objects with awkward or odd shapes.
- Working in awkward, uncomfortable positions.
- Sitting or standing too long in one position. Sitting can
be very hard on the lower back.
- It is also possible to injure your back slipping on a wet
floor or ice.
Prevent Back Injuries
Once standing, change directions by pointing your feet
and turn your whole body. Avoid twisting at your waist.
To put load down, use these guidelines in reverse.
Avoid lifting and bending whenever you can.
- Place objects up off the floor.
- Raise/lower shelves.
- Use carts and dollies.
- Use cranes, hoists, lift tables and other lift-assist devices
whenever you can.
- Test the weight of an object before lifting it by picking up
- Get help if it’s too heavy for you to lift it alone.
- Use proper lift procedures. Follow these steps:
- Take a balanced stance, feet shoulder-width apart.
Squat down to lift, get as close as you can.
Get a secure grip, hug the load.
Lift gradually using your legs, keep load close to you,
keep back and neck straight.
Things You Can Do
Minimize problems with your back by exercises that tone
the muscles in your back, hips and thighs. Before beginning
any exercise program, you should check with your doctor
Exercise regularly, every other day. Warm up slowly - a
brisk walk is a good way to warm up. Inhale deeply before
each repetition of an exercise and exhale when performing
Exercises To Help Your Back
Wall slides to strengthen your muscles.
your back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Slide
down into a crouch with knees bent to 90 degrees. Count
to 5 and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.
Leg raises to strengthen back and hip muscles. Lie
on your stomach. Tighten muscles in one leg and raise leg
from floor. Hold for count of 10, and return leg to floor. Do
the same with your other leg. Repeat five times with each
Leg raises to strengthen back and hip muscles. Lie
on back, arms at your sides. Lift one leg off floor and hold
for count of ten. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 5
times with each leg. If this is too difficult, keep one knee
bent and the foot flat on the floor while raising the other leg.
Leg raises while seated. Sit upright, legs straight
and extended at an angle to floor. Lift one leg waist high.
Slowly return to floor. Do the same with the other leg.
Repeat 5 times with each leg.
Partial sit-up to strengthen stomach muscles. Lie
on back, knees bent and feet flat on floor. Slowly raise
head and shoulders off floor and reach both hands toward
your knees. Count to 10. Repeat 5 times.
Back leg swing to strengthen hip and back muscles.
Stand behind chair, hands on chair. Lift one leg back
and up, keeping the knee straight. Return slowly. Raise
other leg and return. Repeat 5 time with each leg.
Exercises To Decrease the Strain on
Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Raise
knees toward chest. Place hands under knees and pull
knees to chest. Do not raise your head. Do not straighten
your legs as you lower them. Start with 5 repetitions, several
time a day.
Lie on stomach, hands under shoulders, elbows bent
and push up. Raise top half of body as high as possible.
Keep hips and legs on floor. Hold for one or two seconds.
Repeat 10 times, several times a day.
Stand with feet apart. Place hands in small of back. Keep
knees straight. Bend backwards at waist as far as possible
and hold for one or two seconds. Repeat as needed.
Take care of your back and it will take care of you:
- Exercise daily.
- Avoid heavy lifting.
- Get help with heavy or bulky objects.
- If you must bend over, do it properly.
Avoid twisting at the waist when carrying objects.
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.