Keeping Your Back Safe at Work

Sitting still for a long time, performing repetitive tasks and lifting heavy objects can all be really bad for the back. If you do any of these tasks as part of your job, you could be at risk of developing back pain. It is a good idea to take steps to minimise risks before you start feeling pain, however these tips also help to minimise the chance of pain reoccurring.

Sitting At a Screen

If your job involves sitting at a computer screen all day, you should make sure that you take the time to get up every 30 minutes and move around the room. You only need to move for a minute or two to counteract the effects of sitting sedentary. This gives the muscles a chance to relax and prevents the back from becoming tense and stiff.

You should be given a workplace assessment and tips on how to sit correctly as part of your induction, but it is a good idea to revisit this advice regularly to make sure that it is being followed.

Most office chairs will have the function to change the tilt and back position. Make sure that the chair is supporting the lower back properly. The seat should be fixed into a very light tilt with the knees slightly lower than the hips. The height of the chair should be sufficient that the wrist and forearms can be held level whilst using the mouse or keyboard. The mouse should be positioned to avoid stretching and straining. As well as reducing the risk of back pain, this also helps to reduce the risk of developing repetitive strain injury.

Whilst you are seated your feet should rest flat on the floor. If the height of the chair does not allow you to do this, you should be able to request a foot rest to enable you to put your feet on something. You should avoid sitting cross legged or on your feet, because this twists and bends your lower spine. Your computer screen should be adjusted so that it sits at eye level. This prevents you from having to bend your neck to read the screen, which can put your upper spine at risk.

Safe Lifting Techniques

If you are asked to lift anything as part of your job then you must follow safe lifting techniques. Failing to do this can put your back at risk of damage. Before you make a lift, you should carefully plan the lift. Think about how much the item weighs, where it needs to be moved to, and whether you will need to use any special tools to assist with the lift. Does the object need to be modified to ensure that it will remain stable whilst being moved? If you are carrying the object over horizontal distance, you should consider whether there are any obstacles or trip hazards in the way. Move any obstacles which can be moved out of your way beforehand, so as to minimise the distances that you are required to carry the object.

Before picking the item up, make sure that you are standing in a stable position. Your feet should be slightly apart with one leg a little bit in front of the other to maintain your balance against the weight. You may need to shift your balance as you pick up the object, so make sure that you are able to move freely to do this.

When you are picking the object up, you should bend the knees and hips rather than bending the back. However, a slight bend of the back is preferable to adopting a full squat position. Avoid bending the back any further once the item has already been lifted. You should also avoid twisting or leaning when you are holding heavy items. If you need to turn to look at something or someone that is outside of your natural field of vision, you should turn your whole body to do so. For perfect alignment, always keep your hips in line with your shoulders. Keep the load stable, at waist height and with the heaviest side towards your body. Always put the load down before correcting the position of the item.

Been injured?

If you have injured your back while at work then you should notify your boss, or manager, foreman etc. This injury should be noted in the company accident book. You should also seek medical advice to see how severe the injury is and what treatments for back injury will be recommended in your case. It’s always better to be safe than sorry where your health is concerned.