One million people have back injuries in the workplace every year, according to OSHA. And most of those injuries are from lifting below the knees or over the shoulders. Storage of materials above 1.5 ft and below 5 ft could reduce risk. A kaizen event with 5S sorting would be a good way to achieve this.
Employers could order lighter supplies—in 50 lb bags instead of 100 lb bags, for example. Requiring heavier materials be moved with a hand truck or forklift can also help eliminate back injuries.
PPE (personal protective equipment) can also increase back safety, as can simple stretching prior to lifting.
Good workstation planning with effective ergonomics will also help guarantee worker safety.
intro music and effects
Dan Clark: I’m back with The Safety Brief. This is Dan Clark where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.
I’m back. Your back. Everybody’s back. We’re talking about back injuries today. Employers need to help try to eliminate lower back hazards in the workplace. OSHA says over a million workers every year suffer some kind of back injury.
So, what do we do? Well, a company can reduce hazards related to workplace setup. For example, most injuries occur when people are lifting things from below the knees or above the shoulders. So, having all of the items that need to be lifted stored in this zone—between 1 1/2 and 5 feet off the ground—can really help. Also, rearrange workstations to reduce the need to twist the body while lifting. And try to set up work areas so when employees take the path of least resistance, it will be a safe path.
Reducing weight hazards is another angle you can take. Mandate that all items over a certain weight need to be carried using a cart, or a hand truck or a forklift. This will prevent the workers from being too macho and over exerting. Another way is to potentially buy things that are heavy in smaller packages. 100 pound bags of raw materials may be slightly more expensive in 50 pound bags, but you may save money on back injuries.
Other ergonomic considerations are PPE and stretching. The PPE may be back braces; and before shifts, workers could benefit from stretching.
And don’t forget basic training. You can’t assume that a worker will know how to lift something heavy—using the legs, not the back to lift. Bending at the knees instead of the waist. You should cover these practices in training and reinforce them during normal operations. Talk with the employees about why they do, and why they don’t, do things the most ergonomic way. These conversations can help uncover problems with a workstation setup.
That’s all for this episode. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I am Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. We’re sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at creativesafetysupply.com
See this OSHA Back Injury Training Guide