In 2021 189,000 workers had time off due to back pain alone. What causes work-related back pain and how you can lower costs and improve productivity with simple steps to reduce this risk in your workplace?
What causes back pain?
While all work-related back injuries can’t be prevented, ignoring job-related risks is a leading factor in developing health issues. The most common causes of work-related back pain are:
- muscle strain which can be caused by sitting or standing in the same position for long periods, poor ergonomics, repetitive movements and constant strains and pulls through various activities.
- job-related stress may take a toll on a worker’s back over time as muscle tension can result in back pain.
- not taking sufficient breaks. Some workers would usually wait until they experience musculoskeletal discomfort before taking a rest break. Even if your workers are taking proper precautions, carrying out duties that place extra strain on their spine can increase the risk of sustaining an injury.
- ignoring health issues. If your staff have existing health risks such as weight issues and conditions like high blood pressure, taking on extra work-related duties may increase their back injury risk.
Tip. Avoid directly blaming an employee and saying it’s their fault they have a bad back. Work with them to understand why they have not used equipment or failed to use the correct lifting technique. Find alternative methods for carrying out the task.
Prevention’s better than cure
Being aware of the risks can encourage employees to take steps to reduce the odds of causing an injury. By preventing and managing all musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace, organisations stand to lower costs, improve productivity, gain worker engagement, reduce staff turnover, improve morale, and reduce absence rates.
Manual handling affects every business in some shape or form. Ranging from a manufacturing environment to an office, there is always some aspect of manual handling that is carried out. We can assist with all aspects of manual handling assessments as well as provide training for your staff, to minimise the risk of injury and protect your business.We are here to help – simply contact your designated advisor, or call our Health & Safety team on 01427 420 402 or email email@example.com
Getting back pain while working from home?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, thousands of people worked either partly or fully from home. Now that number has grown significantly. If your workers are now working from home, they may be noticing new aches and pains that they did not experience at the office. That’s because even though it isn’t mandated, many companies follow an ANSI-HFS standard in the design of their computer workstations, furnishing the office with ergonomic furniture and accessories.
So, what can you do?
Spend as much time as you can working in a neutral posture – a comfortable body position where no body part is awkwardly bent or twisted. Follow these tips to make your home office more ergonomically designed. The more you can work in a neutral posture, and the more you can move around, the less the chance of any injury.
- View your computer screen with a straight neck. Make sure your screen is set so that the top of the screen is at eye level.
- Put your keyboard and mouse or touchpad at a comfortable height in front of you.If using a laptop, use a separate keyboard and mouse where possible, this allows the laptop screen to be positioned correctly.
- Don’t use a soft, squishy wrist rest.
- Sit back in your chair. Consider lower lumbar back support or cushion. Supporting your lower back will help encourage good posture.
- When sitting, rest your feet flat on either the floor or foot support.
- Take regular, short breaks. Move around for five or ten minutes every hour, aiming for frequent, short breaks.
- Limit the time you work on your bed or on the sofa
Lighten the load
So, what can you do to educate your staff and lower the risk in your workplace?
- Risk assesses. It really is the best way to predict the various factors that can lead to MSDs. It should consider the task, individual, load, work environment and anything else that’s relevant.
- Control the risks. Putting sensible and proportionate measures controls in place, whilst still considering the hierarchy of control. This doesn’t have to be costly or a big change and could include modifying equipment or making alterations to work practices.
- Take a break. Ensure that frequent rest breaks are taken to enhance the body’s recovery thereby preventing fatigue. Encourage staff to stretch their muscles to reduces tension in their body and improve overall flexibility.
- Good ergonomics. Balance the requirements of the job and the capacity of the employee. This can be done by adapting the task to the person through the design of the work or developing the capacity of the staff member through training and workplace adjustments.
- Pay attention to posture. The way in which a worker performs a task can affect MSDs. For example, if a worker maintains a static posture and twists to pack, such as working on checkouts, they are more likely to damage muscles than if they move their feet to position themselves. Small improvements reduce the risk.
- Report it. MSDs may be related to what workers do in their personal lives, which compounds issues at work. This is where awareness training comes in. Having workers who are aware of all MSD hazards and risks and are healthier outside of work will be of benefit to you.
Encourage staff to adopt good practices and report any issues as soon as possible.
We are here to help – simply contact your designated advisor, call our Health & Safety team on 01427 420 402 or email firstname.lastname@example.org