WorkSafe stats show that 20% of workplace injuries occur in the back, with incidence rates being particularly high amongst trades workers and labourers.
Back injuries do not always arise from a single event or accident – they often build up over time as you use and possibly abuse your back day-in and day-out!
Let’s take a look at some of the causes of back injury and what you can do to prevent them.
Causes of back injury
According to the Better Health Channel, common causes of back injury include manual handling, repetitive or heavy lifting, sudden movements, lack of exercise, poor posture, and muscle tension.
Your back does not operate in isolation, but provides a support structure for the rest of your skeleton. Your vertebrae are cushioned by discs which act as shock absorbers and help make your back flexible, while muscles provide support and tendons hold the whole structure together.
Pain in your back usually does not come from the spine itself but from strain on the associated muscles and joints. Pain may be felt in any part of the back or even down the legs. Pain in the lower part of the back tends to be common in tradies from manual-handling work.
The pain may be dull or sharp, triggered by certain bodily movements, or felt as stiffness, numbness or tingling. In some cases, it can also radiate out into the limbs. This can interfere with your daily activities – making it hard to get work done or to be as productive as you’d like to be.
Preventing back injury and pain
Prevention involves a combination of safe practices in the workplace and self-management techniques.
What employers can do:
- Ensure proper lifting techniques are used on the worksite. This involves bending at the knees and lifting objects using the leg muscles and hips rather than the back.
- Provide equipment such as cranes, forklifts and wheelbarrows for lifting and moving heavy loads.
- Provide proper workplace training – especially for new and inexperienced workers.
- Make sure everyone is taking their work breaks.
Self-management techniques to help prevent back injuries include:
- Getting help to lift heavy loads, and breaking down big loads into smaller lots.
- Warming up – such as by starting the day with lifting small loads and gradually increasing the size.
- Keeping good posture – this means standing tall and avoiding slouching and hunching.
- Stretching before tackling a task.
- Keeping fit through exercise programs like strength training and pilates. Being physically fit strengthens muscles and ligaments and helps to keep them flexible. A professional fitness expert can help by putting together a tailored exercise program.
- Getting help for back pain – e.g. through a physiotherapist or chiropractor.
August is Tradie Health Month – so learn what you can do to prevent back injuries at work. If you need to make lifting and handling safer and easier on your next job site, Kennards Hire offers a range of specialist equipment and expert advice on the right tool for the task. Call 135 135 to speak to the Kennards Hire team or visit the website.