Back Injury Prevention Safety Guide (Spanish)
Poster: Back Injury Prevention
Poster: Back Injury Prevention (Spanish)
Poster: Back Injury - Heavy Lifting
Poster: Back Injury - Lifting
Poster: Back Injury - Moving
Poster: Back Injury - Ruin Your Day
Poster: Back Injury - Test the Load

Most back injuries are preventable. Prevention requires understanding how and why injuries occur, training and following safe lifting practices, supervision, and workplace changes, when appropriate. As amazing as the human back is, it is designed to primarily carry upper body weight. The back is most efficient at this when upper body posture is vertical. As the upper body bends forward at the waist, back muscles must work harder to keep from falling forward. The back muscles’ leverage is about 10 to 1, which is not an efficient ratio. For example, a 20-pound box causes the lower back to feel 200 pounds of force and a 50-pound box causes 500 pounds of force. The greater the force on the lower back, the greater the risk for back injury.

When bending over at the waist to lift an object, the back must also lift upper-body weight which creates additional force on the lower back. Most back injuries occur while bending over and lifting, lifting an object away from the body, or lifting an object that is too heavy. Preventing these types of injuries requires reducing the force on the lower back. For example, by simply moving a 50-pound box that is 20 inches away from the back to 10 inches, the force on the lower back drops from 500 pounds to 250 pounds. Moving the box 10 inches closer to the back cuts the force on the lower back by 50 percent and reduces the risk for injury.

To reduce and/or prevent back injuries, follow the eight rules of safe lifting practices:

  1. Keep your back straight.
  2. Keep the load close to your body.
  3. Use your legs to lift. Bend your knees, not your waist.
  4. Don’t twist when lifting.
  5. Think about the lift. What will make the lift safe? The greatest cause of back injury is habit. Most workers lift incorrectly because they do not consciously think about lifting.
  6. Test the weight of the object to be lifted. Can it be handled safely?
  7. Supervise safe lifting practices to break bad lifting habits.
  8. Use mechanical or ergonomic devices if lifts are frequent. Devices that minimize the number of lifts, the lifting distance, and the lifting load weight include conveyors, hoists, forklifts, adjustable pallet lifts, and lift assists.

Often packaging can be redesigned to reduce the package weight. The packaging size can even be increased, but bulk-loading equipment is then required instead of manual handling. Changes should be made with the intention to prevent injuries and maintain or increase productivity. Fewer back injuries result in increased productivity, reduced damage costs, lower workers' compensation costs, and an improved bottom line.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

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NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.