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Safety Means . . . Never Having to Say You're Sorry (Jan/Feb-08)
Flammables and Combustible Liquids (Nov/Dec-07)
Designing-In Safety NOT Retrofitting Safety (Sep/Oct-07)
Back Safety and Lifting (Jul/Aug-07)
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Your Hearing Keep it for a Lifetime (Mar/Apr-07)
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Would You Risk Your Employee's Life? (Sep/Oct-06)
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OSHA Is on the Move (Mar/Apr-06)
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Machine Safety – Are Your Machines Safe to Operate? (Sep/Oct-03)
Summer is Here (Jul/Aug-03)
Working Safely On Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts) (May/Jun-03)
Does Your Safety and Health Workplace Program Contain All of These Elements? (Mar/Apr-03)
Methylene Chloride (Jan/Feb-03)
Safety Signs & Labels - Does Your Facility Comply? (Nov/Dec-02)
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When OSHA Arrives (Jul/Aug-02)
Facts About the Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) (May/Jun-02)
Workplace Fire Safety (Mar/Apr-02)
OSHA 300 Form (Jan/Feb-02)
Preparing for Disaster (Nov/Dec-01)
How Much is a Life Worth? (Sep/Oct-01)
Material Handling Programs (Jul/Aug-01)
It's Up To You To Protect Your Skin (May/Jun-01)
When You’ve Been Handed the Responsibility for Safety (Mar/Apr-01)
A Fresh Look at Machine Safeguarding (Jan/Feb-01)
Safe Work Habits (Nov/Dec-00)
The Importance of Material Safety Data Sheets (Sep/Oct-00)
Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (Jul/Aug-00)
Lockout/Tagout Program (May/Jun-00)
OSHA Violations, Citations and Penalties for 1998 (Mar/Apr-00)
Erogonomics and Machinery Safeguarding (Jan/Feb-00)
General Machine Principles (Nov/Dec-99)
SAFETY SOLUTIONS
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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

  • 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 a corner.
  • 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.
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.

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 each repetition.

Exercises To Help Your Back

Wall slides to strengthen your muscles. Stand with 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.

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 Your Back

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.

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