Preventing work-related back injuries
Back injury is one of the most common workplace injuries, but there are steps employers and workers can take to help prevent back pain from occurring.
Back pain and injuries are a common problem in the UK, as demonstrated by a growing demand for specialist back care and the corresponding rise in chiropractic job listings. What’s particularly concerning is that a large proportion of back injuries are caused in, or exacerbated by, the workplace, with back injuries being cited as one of the most common workplace injuries. Back pain can be a severely debilitating condition so it’s important understand why back injuries still happen in the workplace and what can be done to prevent them.
Back injuries at work
Back injuries occur in a variety of sectors and job roles, and can be caused by a number of different factors. Amongst those most at risk are those whose jobs involve a high degree of manual work, operating heavy equipment or carrying out repetitive tasks. Lower back pain is also particularly common amongst office workers who sit at workstations for long periods of time, and employees who spend a lot of time on their feet. More generally speaking, a lot of workers, no matter their job role, suffer a back injury after slipping, tripping or falling at work.
Preventing back injuries
One of the main causes of workplace back injuries is a failure to pay proper attention to health and safety. A company’s health and safety policies and procedures play an important role in safeguarding the health of employees, and there are steps workers and employers can take to help minimise the risk of back injuries occurring.
Many back injuries suffered by manual workers occur due to poor lifting technique. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that all relevant employees undergo appropriate manual handling training and that information on correct technique is readily available. Equally, it’s important that workers follow any guidelines issued and adhere to best practice when moving or lifting heavy loads. Issuing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as back supports, to workers at risk of back strain can also help to reduce the chance of injury.
Sitting for long periods of time at a desk can put strain on the lower back. As well as being encouraged to take regular breaks, all workers who spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer should undergo a workstation assessment to ensure that it is properly arranged and adjusted to fit, and that any special requirements are identified and accommodated.
A lot of slips, trip and falls in the workplace are caused by hazards such as spillages, uneven flooring and improper storage. By carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment of the workplace, employers can identify any potential accident ‘blackspots’ and take steps to make the working environment safer for everyone.
As a worker, if you do start to suffer from back pain you should report it immediately to your employer so that appropriate measures can be taken to help mitigate the problem.
Treating back injuries
If you are unlucky enough to suffer a back injury in the workplace, there are steps you can take to minimise the damage and speed up recovery.
Painkillers and treatment with heat and ice can all help, as can staying active. While it may be tempting to take it easy and avoid exercise, this can actually cause more damage in the longer term. Rather than avoiding exercise altogether, take up a gentle programme of stretching, strengthening, and low-impact aerobic exercise in order to help ease pain and promote healing. Just be sure to consult with your doctor or chiropractor before undertaking any exercise programme to make sure it’s right for you.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure, and by being vigilant, exercising common sense and adhering to health and safety guidelines we can alldo our bit to help prevent back injuries from happening at work.