The material in today’s Advisor is adapted from “Back Safety Training,” a session in BLR’s HR Library on TrainingToday.
Strains and sprains are the leading cause of workplace injuries and illnesses, and the back and shoulders are the parts of the body most affected. Many of these injuries are part of a class of injuries known as “musculoskeletal disorders” or “MSDs.” This term is used in scientific literature to refer collectively to a group of injuries and illnesses that affect the musculoskeletal system; there is no single diagnosis for MSDs.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines an MSD as an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal disks. They do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, motor vehicle accidents, or similar accidents. Sprains and strains that result from repetitive motions are prevented or controlled through ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the science of fitting working conditions to the people who have to do the work through the design of equipment and safety procedures. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), back injuries account for nearly 20 percent of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace, which impact more than one million workers.
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According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), back injuries cost the nation an estimated $20 billion to $50 billion per year; one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries. NIOSH believes that the most effective way to prevent back injury is to implement an ergonomics program that focuses on redesigning the work environment and work tasks to reduce the hazards of lifting.
According to OSHA’s Technical Manual: Back Disorders and Injuries, back disorders result from exceeding the capability of the muscles, tendons, disks, or the cumulative effect of several contributors, including:
- Reaching while lifting
- Poor posture (how one sits or stands)
- Staying in one position for too long
- How one lifts, pushes, pulls, or carries objects
- Losing the strength and endurance to perform physical tasks without strain
- Poor design of job or workstation
- Repetitive lifting of awkward items, equipment, or patients in healthcare facilities
- Twisting while lifting
- Bending while lifting
- Maintaining bent postures
- Heavy lifting
- Poor footing, such as slippery floors, or constrained posture
- Lifting with forceful movement
- Vibration, such as with forklift and delivery drivers
If you have not yet considered developing an ergonomics program, perhaps OSHA’s industry-specific guidelines will inspire you to get started. Here are a few tips to facilitate your efforts:
- Encourage employees to let you know if work is causing them discomfort. Pay attention to their concerns and investigate them. If necessary, bring in a professional to conduct an assessment.
- If you have a safety committee in place, consider developing an ergonomics subcommittee. Get members the training they need and charge them with specific tasks, including research.
- Look for low-cost resources, like risk management services provided by your workers’ compensation carrier, an ergonomist from a local college, programs developed by a trade group or labor union, or your OSHA area office.
If you opt for outside expertise, choose carefully. Hire experience and a proven track record, check references, and look for appropriate education and designation or certification.
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Also consider these recommended guidelines for conducting your ergonomics training program.
Trainer qualifications. Training should be provided by someone who understands the science of MSDs and their symptoms, especially related to back injuries, and who is thoroughly familiar with ergonomic program design and implementation procedures.
Audience. Training and information should be provided to any employees who perform or are likely to perform repetitive motions that impact the back as part of their normal job functions or who perform a special task that involves repetitive motion over an extended period.
Training frequency. Training should take place at the time of employment or reassignment to a new position, whenever risk factors for MSDs or back injuries change, and when signs and symptoms of back injuries develop.
In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll present a back safety training exercise, plus we will showcase an effective online training resource chock-full of dozens of courses on key HR topics.
1 thought on “Are You Backing Into Back Safety Training?”
Safety at work training certainly helps to reduce at work injuries.