Ever hear the old saying, ‘lift with your legs, not your back’? There is a lot of truth in it. If you’re not already, it’s time to get serious about back safety. Back injuries due to lifting are one of the top five types of injuries reported to MEM. The average lost time injury is $35,000 and can have long-term effects. With a little training, your business can avoid prevent these types of injuries altogether.
Some important things to remember when you are considering whether or not to invest your time in back safety training include the fact that the Missouri workforce is aging, meaning employees are injured more frequently and it takes longer to heal. Most adults already experience back pain and many have some level of degeneration already occurring.
Teach the basics
- Team lift heavy loads.
- Break down heavy loads.
- Use a machine whenever possible, even though it may add time to production rates.
- Remember that even light loads can be problematic when the job task is repetitive.
- Make room around the feet and minimize twisting during lifting.
Require safety on the job
- Make sure employees are educated about safe lifting techniques. Since back injuries are so prevalent, make sure you are investing in regular and routine safety meetings.
- Consider inviting an orthopedic specialist or physician into your facility for a safety meeting. They can help survey work areas and contribute new ideas.
- Do inspections. Find out if employees are using tools like dollies and carts. Check to see if those tools are in good condition.
- Compare your workers compensation cost increases to the cost of material handling equipment. Lift tables, adjustable carts and even forklifts are all cheaper than a treating a serious back injury.
Contributing factors to workplace back injuries
- Cluttered work areas may contribute to slips, trips and falls.
- Cramped work areas can cause twisting.
- Falling objects that can cause an employee to react.
- Repetitive lifting of light loads.
Have a plan
If a back injury occurs, do the following:
- Get treatment by a recommended orthopedic physician and require a post-injury drug and alcohol screen. Remember, Missouri employers reserve the right to direct medical care. The better the treatment, the better the outcome.
- Report the injury to your workers compensation insurance carrier immediately. Stay in contact with your carrier throughout the claim and ask if you have questions about treatment or claim management.
- Show your employees that you are serious about safety. Perform an investigation. Verify that this back injury is actually compensable, and determine the contributing factors. Make changes to prevent future occurrences.
- Offer the injured employee transitional duty, also known as light duty, whenever possible. Everyone can benefit from light duty programs. Light duty activities function as a work-hardening process which improves medical outcomes. When a back injury claim stays a “medical only” claim with no lost time, it receives a 70 percent discount in how it is calculated into the National Council on Compensation Insurance experience modifier formula. Employees can be productive while recovering and employers don’t experience increased insurance costs.
Back injuries are costly. Risk management principles like awareness, training and proper response can minimize the impacts on your business. Check out the following resources on WorkSAFE Center for easy to use safe lifting information.