Avoiding Back Injury
We have all been told to avoid back injury by bending our knees when we lift, keeping the load close and avoiding twisting motions. These safety rules may be appropriate for simple, direct lifting of materials, but what about back care when you are working in awkward positions?
What are some work situations that may put you in “awkward” positions?
- Jobs that require you to bend and reach into bins or containers to retrieve or place material
- Overhead work, installing or servicing equipment
- Work tasks in confined or small spaces where there is limited range of motion such as boilers, hatches, pipes, tanks, vaults, crawl spaces, etc.
- Jobs on ladders, work platforms or step ladders where you may over-reach to adjust, clean, install or service
- Pulling loads, instead of pushing them, when removing equipment or other materials
- Repetitive tasks that require twisting of the back such as loading or handling material 90 to 180 degrees from the starting point
How can you avoid injury when working in awkward positions?
- Raise bins and containers off the floor and/or tilt them to reduce bending and over-reaching
- When working overhead, stand on a steady and adjustable platform. Keep your back posture in its natural curve to avoid uneven spinal loading
- In confined spaces, plan your work, and reduce clutter in the area which confines you further and increases the need to twist or overreach. Also arrange for adequate illumination
- Don’t hold an awkward position for too long. Pause often to stretch and straighten out
- When leaning forward to work, support the weight of your upper body on your free hand and arm, whenever possible. This greatly relieves pressure on your lower back
- Position yourself as close as possible to the job, avoid overreaching and/or use tools with longer handles
- Never lift heavy loads that are far from your body’s center of gravity. Get help in such cases.