Toolbox Talk No. 16 - Preventing Common Back Injuries In Construction

Back injuries are one of the most common jobsite hazards. These pesky injuries can affect almost every kind of worker – from hands on laborers doing heavy lifting to desk bound office employees sitting all day. In fact, 25% of reported construction injuries are related to back pain. 1 in 100 construction workers will miss seven days of work each year due to back injury.

Back injuries are not only painful and dangerous. They can severely affect jobsite productivity, delaying jobs and costing companies money. Today on Toolbox Talks, we will discuss back injuries and how to prevent them from both the perspective of workers and for management. Read along to find out how to protect yourself and your fellow workers.  

Types of Back Injuries

Construction is hard on the body, requiring physical exertion every day by lifting, pushing, pulling, twisting, and lowering loads to get work done. All of these motions can lead to the most common back injuries.

Back injuries occur most often in the lumbar region of the back (the lower part) because this area bears the most weight. Lumber injuries typically happen when someone lifts or lowers a load improperly.

You can also injure the thoracic and coccygeal region of your back (the chest and tailbone). Thoracic and coccygeal injuries typically occur when someone slips and falls, is hit by something, or makes improper motions repetitively. 

All of these back injuries can cause you to miss work, lose mobility for a few days, or cause pain and back issues that can become permenant. It is essential to know how to prevent back injuries to keep yourself safe and healthy.

Tips to Prevent Back Injury

The first way to prevent injury is to plan accordingly for lifting and moving heavy objects. We talk a lot about planning here at WRYKER, and that is because we believe thinking ahead is one of the best ways you can protect yourself and your fellow workers.

  • Housekeeping: Have a housekeeping plan. Keeping your workspace clean and tidy can help prevent slips and falls. Housekeeping can also ensure that you have your materials inaccessible storage containers. Keeping your materials at waist height prevents so much strain on your back.
  • Delivered Materials: if you have materials delivered, save yourself the trip and deliver them close to the worksite. It will prevent workers from having to lift and carry materials more than they need to.
  • Rest Breaks: Plan and take breaks accordingly. Sometimes your body needs a few minutes to rest and recuperate. Don’t be afraid to rest. It will actually increase your productivity and efficiency.

The second way to prevent injury is to take advantage of the help. Tools and supplies are there to make your job easier. Fellow workers can also be a great resource. A good rule of thumb is to get help when carrying something 60 pounds or more.

  • Carry Tools Properly: Taking care of your tools is essential because it can help prevent injury. Comfortable stable handles ensure that tools do not slip from your hands. Carrying a toolbox or wearing a toolbelt is another way to carry tools properly and avoid injury.
  • Use Moving Supplies: carts, dollies, forklifts, and hoists are all supplies that can help you move heavy, large materials. Don’t be afraid to use them for odd-shaped loads as well. The less you can carry, the more you will save your back.
  • Get Help: Asking your fellow workers for help is another excellent way to prevent back injury. You are all there to complete the job, so ask for help and help when asked.

The third way to prevent back injury is to lift and lower materials properly. Even if you plan and use your tools and supplies properly to help you, you will eventually have to lift something. You must know how to lift and lower appropriately to prevent injury.

  • Before you lift:
    • Stretch frequently to ensure your muscles are prepped and ready to lift heavy materials.
    • Check how heavy the materials are. Remember, if something is over 60 pounds, it’s best to ask for help.
    • Plan your route. Make sure there is a clear, safe path of travel for you.
    • Place your feet firmly on the ground, one foot behind the load and one foot beside it.
  • How to lift correctly:
    • Squat down using your legs, not your back. Do not bend over.
    • Grasp the object firmly with both hands. Keep arms and elbows in.
    • Hold the object as close to your body as possible.
    • Lift straight up with your legs in a smooth and steady fashion. Do not twist or turn or jerk.
    • Hold your head up in a straight position.
    • Maintain the curve of your lower back.

It’s important to remember that back injuries often don’t happen after one instance. The most common back injuries are a result of improper lifting techniques over a long period of time. Lift properly each time and try to limit your lifting as much as possible. Thank you so much for reviewing back injuries with us today. Share this with your fellow construction workers to ensure safety for everyone.

Wishing you a happy and safe workplace,

WRYKER's Safety Team

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