Back Injuries: A Leading Safety issue in the Workplace
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Further, one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering borne by employees.”
According to the National Safety Council, workplace accidents cost U.S. employers $63.8 billion in workers’ compensation costs. The council reported that back injuries make up 31 percent of workplace injuries. The expense of back injuries to employers stretches far beyond direct costs. There are numerous indirect costs such as replacing injured employees and lost productivity. Total estimates run as high as $100 billion per year in indirect costs to employers for back injuries. Some human resource managers say that indirect to direct costs of workers’ compensation represent a ratio of nearly 10 to 1.
Surveys show that the majority of work-related back injuries are to the lower back area and 3 of 4 of those injuries are caused by lifting. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, (www.osha.gov) has considered and proposed a variety of ways to help employers and employees reduce these injuries through requests for public input in developing guidelines or regulations for manual lifting.
Some of the programs developed include:
Strength testing of existing workers to assign jobs that are within a particular worker’s strength capabilities.
Training employees to utilize lifting techniques that place minimum stress on the lower back.
Physical conditioning or stretching programs to reduce the risk of muscle strain.
Reduction in the size and/or weight of objects lifted while also taking into account the compactness of a package, the presence of handles, and the stability of the package being handled.
Adjusting the height of a pallet or shelf.
Installation of mechanical aids such as pneumatic lifts, conveyors, and/or automated materials handling equipment.
Studies have shown up to one-third of compensable back injuries could be prevented through better job design (ergonomics) and constant attention to the way you are doing things, whether lifting heavy objects or sitting in a sedentary position.
Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from suffering a back injury. If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related injury, please contact our legal team to discuss your particular situation.