Look Ahead - Guard Your Back!

SafeLifting 62918.jpg

Back injuries at work, home and play are common. A study in 2017 on back injuries reported that 80% of adults experience a back injury in their lifetime and roughly 10% suffer re-injury. A report by the University of Maryland on back injuries in the workplace found that each year there are more than 1 million back injuries which account for 1 in every 5 injuries reported. With the frequency of these injuries, it is in our best interest to take a proactive approach towards prevention. 

Proactive measures to reduce back injuries at work starts by recognizing, then removing risk factors. Observation and coaching will sustain the implemented corrections. 

One system that Wachs uses is our preshift JHA. We lessen the risk of back injuries by rigorous discussions of the task and risk factors, then agree upon and implement solutions. When conducting the JHA, bring up the causes of back injuries to include: 

  • Awkward posture 
  • Overexertion 
  • Repetition 
  • Fatigue 




• Awkward Posture

Several risk factors to consider: 

  1. Exertion with your body in an awkward position. 
  2. Bending or twisting while lifting. 


  1. Work at waist level to avoid bending 
  2. Use material handling tools (forklifts, handtrucks, etc.) 
  3. Ask for assistance lifting heavy or awkward objects 

• Overexertion

Several risk factors to consider: 

  1. Continuous use of heavy tools 
  2. Lifting and carrying materials to and from work site 
  3. Long-term bending, lifting or stooping 
  4. Bending at the waist and twisting 


  1. Use material handling devices, such as dollies, carts, wheelbarrows, lift trucks and skid loaders 
  2. When lifting, pull the object close and lift with your legs, not your back 
  3. Divide the load for safer transport 
  4. Ask a coworker to assist your lift 

    • Repetition

    Several risk factors to consider: 

    1. The same muscles used when an action is repeated 
    2. Required force to lift or move the material 
    3. Number of muscles involved 
    4. Poor posture 


    1. Alternate tasks and postures that use different motions and muscle groups 

    2. Take time to stretch during scheduled breaks 

    • Fatigue

    Several risk factors to consider: 

    1. Continuous lifting, pushing or pulling 
    2. Hand tools that constantly vibrate 
    3. A desk job sitting in a chair with inadequate back support 


    1. Alternate tasks and postures that use different motions and muscles groups, such as sitting and standing 
    2. Take time to stretch before your shift, before the task and during scheduled breaks 
    3. Break up time standing with a seated task when possible

    You can minimize and prevent back pain with stretches that make the muscles in your back, stomach, hips and thighs flexible and strong. Stretching activities reduce injuries by causing muscles to relax and lengthen.  Stretching can increase your range of motion, making you more effective at work and in other activities. Be proactive - Look ahead to guard your back!


    For more information and other tips, see this edition of Wachs Weekly!