Back safety
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Back Safety

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Back safety

Back Safety


Back injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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 employers billions of dollars.

It is estimated that 8 of every 10 people will experience a back injury at some point in their lives. This is especially unfortunate given that back injuries tend to be very painful and very expensive.

Back Injuries


Anatomy of the back

  • The human spine (or backbone) is made up of small bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other to form a column. Between each vertebra is a cushion known as a disc. The vertebrae are held together by ligaments, and muscles are attached to the vertebrae by bands of tissue called tendons. Openings in each vertebra line up to form a long hollow canal. The spinal cord runs through this canal from the base of the brain. Nerves from the spinal cord branch out and leave the spine through the spaces between the vertebrae. This cross-section of the spine shows how the spinal nerves and spinal cord are protected.

Anatomy of the Back


Anatomy of the back1

  • The lower part of the back holds most of the body's weight.

  • Even a minor problem with the bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons in this area can cause pain when a person stands, bends, or moves around. Less often, a problem with a disc can pinch or irritate a nerve from the spinal cord, causing pain that runs down the leg below the knee, called sciatica.

  • Every time you bend or move, these disks compress with the motion of the spine.

Anatomy of the Back


Types of injuries

  • Every time you bend over, lift a heavy object, or sit leaning forward, you put stress on the components of your back and spine. Over time, they can start to wear out and become damaged. Many of the problems that cause back pain are the result of injury and degeneration of the intervertebral disk. Degeneration is a process where wear and tear causes deterioration, like when your favorite jeans get old. The disk is subjected to different types of stress as we use our backs each day.

  • Eventually, disks can collapse or herniate; vertebrae can shift; bone spurs can develop.

  • Acute or immediate injuries to the back can be caused by tearing or straining ligaments and muscles. Muscles can also spasm due to stress or tension.

Types of Injuries


Causes of injuries

  • Many back injuries cannot be attributed to a single causal factor; in other words, they tend to be the result of cumulative damage suffered over a long period of time. However, certain actions, motions, and movements are more likely to cause and contribute to back injuries than others.

  • Anytime you find yourself doing one of these things, you should think: DANGER! My back is at risk!

Causes of Injuries


Causes of injuries1

  • Heavy lifting...especially repetitive lifting over a long period of time....

Causes of Injuries


Causes of injuries2

  • 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.)

Causes of Injuries


Causes of injuries3

  • 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...

Causes of Injuries


Causes of injuries4

  • 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

Causes of Injuries


Causes of injuries5

  • Working in awkward, uncomfortable positions...gardening, kneeling, tasks that require you to bend over for long periods of time...

Causes of Injuries


Causes of injuries6

  • Working in awkward, uncomfortable positions...gardening, kneeling, tasks that require you to bend over for long periods of time...

  • It is also possible to injure your back slipping on a wet floor or ice.

Causes of Injuries


The forces involved

  • The amount of force placed on your back under certain conditions can be surprising. Anytime you bend or lean over to pick something up, you put tremendous pressure on your lower back.

  • To demonstrate this, think of your back as a lever. With the fulcrum in the center of the lever, how many pounds would it take to lift a ten pound object?

The Forces Involved


The forces involved1

  • With the fulcrum in the center, it takes ten pounds to lift the ten pound object.

The Forces Involved


The forces involved2

  • With the fulcrum in the center, it takes ten pounds to lift the ten pound object.

  • However, if you shift the fulcrum to one side, this will change. If you think about it, when you bend over to pick something up, your waist acts as the fulcrum point in a lever system, and it is certainly not centered. Will it take more or less force to lift the same 10 pound object with the fulcrum shifted to the side furthest from the object?

The Forces Involved


The forces involved3

  • With the fulcrum shifted away from the object, it takes more force to lift the object. In fact, the human back operates on a 10:1 ratio. Bending over to lift a ten pound object actually puts 100 pounds of pressure on your lower back.

The Forces Involved


The forces involved4

  • When you add in the 105 pounds of the average human upper torso, you see that lifting a ten pound object actually puts 1,150 pounds of pressure on the lower back.

The Forces Involved


The forces involved5

  • When you add in the 105 pounds of the average human upper torso, you see that 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.

The Forces Involved


Contributing factors

  • Poor physical condition - Your stomach muscles provide a lot of the support needed by your back. If you have weak, flabby stomach muscles, your back may not get all the support it needs, especially when you're lifting or carrying heavy objects. Good physical condition in general is important for preventing strains, sprains, and other injuries.

Contributing Factors


Contributing factors1

  • Poor posture is another contributing factor. When your mother told you to sit and stand up straight, she was giving you good advice. It is best to try to maintain the back in its natural "S" shaped curve. You want to avoid leaning forward (unsupported) when you sit, or hunching over while you're standing.

Contributing Factors


Contributing factors2

  • Extra weight can be a big problem. Remember the fulcrum / lever principle? The more you weigh, the more stress it puts on your back every time you bend over... on a 10:1 ratio. That pot belly is not helping the health of your back.

Contributing Factors


Contributing factors3

  • Stress - Tense muscles are more susceptible to strains and spasms

Contributing Factors


Contributing factors4

  • Overdoing it - Don't be afraid to say, "This is too heavy for me to lift alone." It's important to recognize your own physical limitations and abilities. Many people have injured their backs because they were afraid to ask for help.

Contributing Factors


Preventing injuries

  • The best way to prevent back injuries is to develop habits that reduce the strain placed on the back. There are some basic things you can do to help.

    Avoid Lifting and Bending Whenever You Can!

  • Anytime you can spare your back the stress and strain of lifting and bending, do so! If you don't use your back like a lever or crane, you avoid putting it under so much potentially damaging force.

Preventing Injuries


Preventing injuries1

  • Place objects up off the floor. If you can set something down on a table or other elevated surface instead of on the floor, do it so you won't have to reach down to pick it up again.

  • Raise / lower shelves. The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and your waist. Put heavier objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on lower or higher shelves

Preventing Injuries


Preventing injuries2

  • Use carts and dolleys to move objects, instead of carrying them yourself.

Preventing Injuries


Proper lifting techniques

  • Take a balanced stance with your feet about a shoulder-width apart. One foot can be behind the object and the other next to it.

  • Squat down to lift the object, but keep your heels off the floor. Get as close to the object as you can.

Proper Lifting Techniques


Proper lifting techniques1

  • Take a balanced stance with your feet about a shoulder-width apart. One foot can be behind the object and the other next to it.

  • Squat down to lift the object, but keep your heels off the floor. Get as close to the object as you can.

  • Use your palms (not just your fingers) to get a secure grip on the load. Make sure you'll be able to maintain a hold on the object without switching your grip later.

  • Lift gradually (without jerking) using your leg, abdominal and buttock muscles and keeping the load as close to you as possible. Keep your chin tucked in so as to keep a relatively straight back and neck line.

Proper Lifting Techniques


Proper lifting techniques2

  • Take a balanced stance with your feet about a shoulder-width apart. One foot can be behind the object and the other next to it.

  • Squat down to lift the object, but keep your heels off the floor. Get as close to the object as you can.

  • Use your palms (not just your fingers) to get a secure grip on the load. Make sure you'll be able to maintain a hold on the object without switching your grip later.

  • Lift gradually (without jerking) using your leg, abdominal and buttock muscles and keeping the load as close to you as possible. Keep your chin tucked in so as to keep a relatively straight back and neck line.

  • Once you're standing, change directions by pointing your feet in the direction you want to go and turning your whole body. Avoid twisting at your waist while carrying a load.

  • When you put a load down, use these same guidelines in reverse.

Proper Lifting Techniques


Proper lifting techniques3

  • Reduce the amount of weight lifted. If you're moving a bunch of books, better to load several small boxes than one extremely heavy load.

  • Use handles and lifting straps.

  • Get help if the shape is too awkward or the object is too heavy for you to lift and move by yourself!

Proper Lifting Techniques


Proper lifting techniques4

  • It's important to know your body's limitations, and it's important to be aware of your body position at all times. Learn to recognize those situations where your back is most a risk: bending, lifting, reaching, twisting, etc. Then take measures to avoid an injury.

    • Stretch first - If you know that you're going to be doing work that might be hard on your back, take the time to stretch your muscles before starting, just like a professional athlete would do before a workout. This will help you avoid painful strains and sprains.

    • Slow down - If you're doing a lot of heavy, repetitive lifting, take it slowly if you can. Allow yourself more recovery time between lifts, as well. Don't overdo it.

    • Rest your back - Take frequent, short (micro) breaks. Stretch. If you've ever been working in an awkward position for a long time, then stood up and felt stiff and sore, you know you've been in that position too long, and your body is now protesting. Taking a one minute stretch break every now and then can help you avoid that.

    • Get in shape - Strengthen your stomach muscles, lose a little weight, increase your flexibility.

Proper Lifting Techniques


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