Are You Putting Your Back at Risk by Pushing or Pulling Heavy Objects?
You may have sat through countless training videos that advise “lifting with your legs” to avoid a back injury on the job. While this may seem like obvious information, there are still hundreds of New Jersey construction workers who suffer back injuries every day as a result of lifting a heavy load—many of whom will be permanently unable to go back to work as a result.
New Jersey construction workers often injure their backs by:
- Lifting – Lifting heavy objects are one of the most common causes of workplace back injuries nationwide. This can result from a single instance of lifting a weight that is too heavy, or doing repeated lifting and moving day after day until the back simply breaks down.
- Loading and lowering – Too many workers will automatically round their backs when picking up objects from the ground rather than squatting and lifting with their legs. For this reason, workplace safety advocates recommend stacking objects at waist height for easier lifting rather than storing them at ground level.
- Carrying – Once workers have lifted an object, they may rely on their lower backs rather than their core muscles to carry the load. Repeated carrying may also place the worker at an awkward position (five people carrying a length of pipe) or at a strange angle (twisting the body to release the pipe into place).
- Pushing or pulling – Ergonomically speaking, pushing is usually easier on the back than pulling. However, improper technique can cause a back injury whether you are pushing or pulling a heavy object, so it is vital that workers always use both their arms and legs when starting the load in motion. In some cases, workers can avoid strain on their backs by turning around, bracing their backs against the object, and pushing off with their legs to get the load rolling.
- Standing and sitting – Many back injuries are a result of improper posture. Workers will typically hold themselves upright using their backs and hips, putting daily stress on their necks and spines. Sitting for prolonged periods or at strange angles can place stress at the middle of the back, and leaning forward in a chair can cause rounded shoulders or a hunch-back appearance.
Will I Be Able to Work in Construction After an Injury?
Many workers who suffer a spinal injury will not only have to recover, they are at increased risk of suffering a recurrence of the problem, as well as additional injuries, such as degenerative disc disease. Patients who choose to undergo spinal fusion surgery may be able to continue working, but many opt to take alternate jobs that do not require as much heavy lifting (and which usually do not pay as highly as their former employment).
If you want to know if your employer could be liable for back injury surgery, click the link on this page to read through our FREE book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.