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Safety Brief – Back Safety

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August 3, 2018
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As a construction worker, your job requires that you move materials, work in awkward positions, and handle heavy tools throughout the day. Any of these activities can cause back pain. Lifting and carrying require strength and muscle, but they also require proper technique. If you lift and carry material the wrong way, you’ll hurt your back.

Back injuries are the most common injuries in the workplace, causing one million disabling injuries each year. Many of these injuries are in the construction industry and more than half of these injuries result from lifting. Unlike other disabilities, back injuries are sometimes difficult to treat and may require lengthy and expensive rehabilitation. Whether you are lifting at home or at work, make an effort to take care of your back. Warm up before lifting, lift properly, and use material handling equipment when you can.

Start each day with some stretching to warm up your muscles and flex your joints. Stretch your legs, arms, and back. Always use proper lifting techniques: lift with your leg muscles instead of your back muscles, bend your knees, keep your back straight, and hold the load close to your body. Keep in mind that lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds significantly increase the risk of back injury.

Material handling devices are great back savers. Use a hoist, pallet jack, or forklift to lift heavy objects. Use a two wheel dolly, a four wheel cart, or a similar device to move heavy loads around the site instead of carrying them.

Put the load on the wheels, not on your back. Use dollies and carts whenever possible, but be sure to use them correctly and carefully so that they don’t tip over.

Here are a few more tips to prevent back injuries:

· Be aware of your actions. Avoid mindlessly lifting something up off the floor by using your back and not your legs.

· Don’t overreach. Don’t life, hold, or carry objects with your arms extended. Don’t lean over a counter or workbench to life an object.

· Don’t strain your back. Avoid picking up heavy objects. Ask for help or get a forklift if you can.

· Rest when you need to. Avoid overdoing it. Pace yourself and take occasional breaks so the muscles in your back have a chance to recover.

Some workers like to wear back belts. There isn’t enough scientific evidence yet to say whether or not back belts prevent injuries, however if your doctor prescribed a back belt as part of your treatment plan, be sure to follow his/her directions. Prescription or not, don’t let a back belt give you a false sense of security,

Backs have a lot of moving parts. They’re delicate and very hard to fix if they get damaged. Take care of your back and never lift more weight than you can handle.

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