3 Causes Of Back Pain At Work – And How To Prevent It

Persistent back pain can make it impossible to focus when at work. It can also make it impossible to actually complete your tasks. Unfortunately, many industries put a lot of strain on the back, increasing the chances of workers suffering from a range of issues, including minor aches to severe injury. Whether minor or severe, though, back pain is not something anyone wants. Fortunately, there are ways you can avoid it, thereby helping to make your job safer and more enjoyable for you.


What causes back pain?

There are many things that can lead to back pain. The most common sources of back pain are:

  • lifting loads that are too heavy
  • lifting loads or items improperly
  • repeating improper movements over and over; by doing movements repetitively, you can cause inflammation to your joints and tendons, contributing to your risk of developing tendonitis or bursitis.

If you think something else is causing your back pain at work, take some time to evaluate that possibility as well. Once you understand what is causing your pain, you can usually easily change your actions or work with your employer to ensure you aren’t inflicting that pain upon yourself.


How can you avoid causing pain?

If you find that improper lifting, posture or other bad habits are the cause of your back pain, you can get to work on addressing this issue by doing the following:

Keep your body in good shape. By incorporating strength building exercises into your daily routine, you can train your body to better handle the force of lifting heavy objects. The tricks you pick up at the gym will also come in handy at work. Before lifting an object on the job, you should warm your body up with some stretches. This will increase your flexibility, your range of motion and your ability to lift and carry objects in the moment. These stretches are not only good to perform before strenuous activity, but also after, to help keep your muscles in good form.

Pay attention to your posture before you begin lifting. Bad posture is a common cause of back pain. Keeping your back straight and your head up will prevent you from arching your back which can cause injury. You should also avoid twisting while lifting, which can strain the back. Additionally, ifpossible, start with the object between your feet so that you won’t have to reach in order to lift the object. Finally, always keep the load close to your waist while lifting. This lessens the force placed on your back which lessens the possibility of injury.

Take frequent, short breaks in between activity. Taking short and frequent breaks  is better for your muscles than resting for longer periods of time. This is because your body needs some time to recuperate after lifting heavy things. By giving your muscles more opportunities to recover, you’ll be better able to lift more heavy objects.

While you may think these steps are too much hassle, remember that back pain is a common ailment in every industry, even office workers. That means these tricks are appropriate for any worker, in any industry. By preparing yourself beforehand and exhibiting proper technique, you can prevent serious injuries. (And remember, no matter where you work, the most important thing you can do is to listen to your body. If you notice discomfort, address it immediately to determine what the problem is and fix it before it can cause a serious problem.)


Coming Soon: OSHA’s Top 10 Violations Of 2014

Workplace safety. We talk about it all the time, and we do this because of how important the matter really is. The number one reason workplace safety policies and guidelines are so important is, of course, that they help protect the well-being of the people going to and from their jobs every day. In addition to this, they help make a company stronger overall. Finally, with a range of federal organizations helping to craft laws that define at least a minimum level of safety adherence, ignoring the importance of safety policies and regulations is simply asking for more trouble than its worth.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, which has helped identify and establish basic health and safety needs for workers in a range of industries since 1971, has also taken steps to help companies improve safety across the nation. One such step is the yearly publication of a Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards that runs from fiscal year to fiscal year. According to OSHA’s website, “The following is a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites by federal OSHA. OSHA publishes this list to alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other standards before OSHA shows up. Far too many preventable injuries and illnesses occur in the workplace.”

Yet while the list specifically exists to help companies recognize where they’re most likely to fall short on their safety needs, as of last year the number of safety violations issued by OSHA were on the rise. In fact 2013 saw a 45% increase in citations as compared to 2012. And while the different items on the list are more common than others from year to year, for the last few years the list has changed very little.

The release of the 2013 violations list is now almost a year behind us. And with the current fiscal year coming to a close soon, we can expect a new Top 10 OSHA Violations list to come out in the coming month or two. With a new list coming soon, we have a couple of questions that we can’t wait to have answered about 2014’s top safety issues:

1) Will the new list see any change in the list of top violations? For the past few years OSHA’s top violation lists have consistently included the following (though the order of these violations has shifted from time to time):

  •       Fall protection
  •       Hazard communication
  •       Scaffolding
  •       Respiratory protection
  •       Electrical: wiring
  •       Powered industrial trucks
  •       Ladders
  •       Lockout/tagout
  •       Electrical: systems design
  •       Machine guarding

2) Will we see a decrease in the number of violations during 2014? After a comparatively better year in 2012, last year’s spike in violations was a disappointment to safety experts and activists alike. And if this year’s numbers remain the same or even increase, then that’s a strong indicator that we as a nation need to invest time and energy into researching the common causes of these ongoing violations. Economics, mindsets and a range of other things can all factor into how safe a company keeps its workers; our job, then, is to find out what areas we can control and improve.

Whatever the results of 2014’s top violations list may be, nothing will change the fact that managers, supervisors and other employees in positions of power must all take their roles very seriously. After all, they’re the ones responsible for preventing basic violations and for creating a safe, efficient and effective work environment. It’s ultimately through their efforts – not just OSHA’s fines and regulations – that we as a nation will begin to create safer work spaces for all of our valued employees.

Want to learn more about the specifics behind the most common OSHA violations? Then we highly recommend reading smartblogs.com’s post titled, “Workplace safety: Avoiding common OSHA violations.”

Have any additional thoughts or questions that you want us to hear? Then just let us know in the comments!

Working Outdoors? Don’t Forget These Important Work Safety Tips!

We’re all told from a young age that spending too much time in the sun does more harm than good. Not only does it lead to painful sunburn, but any skin damage can increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer. Unfortunately as we grow older sunscreen ceases to be a daily summer necessity.

One expert said during an interview for abcnews.com, “One bottle [of sunscreen] should not last a summer.” And yet numbers indicate that may be exactly what’s happening. Studies have confirmed that too many people forget to use sunscreen, with 31% of Americans not using suncreen at all and a total of 69% using it “occasionally”. Which begs the question – what can be done to help individuals working outdoors?

Workers need to take precautions when working on jobs outdoors. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Workers need to take precautions when working on jobs outdoors.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Seeing as skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, it’s not easy to judge exactly how much an outdoor job contributes to an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer. However, working outdoors can definitely contribute to an individual’s risk. According to OSHA, “Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. The amount of damage from UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure, and whether the skin is protected.”

With that in mind, both employers and employees need to take steps to help reduce sun-related work safety hazards around worksites, as well as encourage the people they work with to take the time to protect themselves. The following are the recommendations laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Recommendations for Employers

Employers should take the following steps to protect workers from exposure to UV radiation:

  • When possible, avoid scheduling outdoor work when sunlight exposure is the greatest
  • Provide shaded or indoor break areas
  • Provide training to workers about UV radiation including:

               –Their risk of exposure

               –How to prevent exposure

               –The signs and symptoms of overexposure

Recommendations for Workers

Workers should follow these recommendations to protect themselves from UV damage:

  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15.

               –SPF refers to the amount of time that persons will be protected from a burn. An SPF of 15 will allow a person to stay out in the sun 15 times longer than they normally would be able to stay without burning. The SPF rating applies to skin reddening and protection against UVB exposure.

               –SPF does not refer to protection against UVA. Products containing Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone block UVA rays.

               –Sunscreen performance is affected by wind, humidity, perspiration, and proper application.

  • Old sunscreens should be thrown away because they lose their potency after 1-2 years.
  • Sunscreens should be liberally applied (a minimum of 1 ounce) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

               –Special attention should be given to covering the ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands.

  • Sunscreens should be reapplied at least every 2 hours and each time a person gets out of the water or perspires heavily.

               –Some sunscreens may also lose efficacy when applied with insect repellents, necessitating more frequent application when the two products are used together.

  • Follow the application directions on the sunscreen bottle.
  • Another effective way to prevent sunburn is by wearing appropriate clothing.

               –Dark clothing with a tight weave is more protective than light-colored, loosely woven clothing.

               –High-SPF clothing has been developed to provide more protection for those with photosensitive skin or a history of skin cancer.

  • Workers should also wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with almost 100% UV protection and with side panels to prevent excessive sun exposure to the eyes.

For more information about skin cancer and how to prevent and recognize it, visit the CDC’s and OSHA’s websites, which contain lots of information individuals can use to address this issue.

Are you exposed to sunlight regularly at your job? Does your worksite implement these safety features? Let us know in the comments!

What Is The True Cost Of Work-Related Injuries In 2014?

We want to address one of the largest expenses companies deal with today – job- related injuries and illnesses.

Job-related injuries and illnesses affect around 3.3 million people a year, according to a blog post by Hilda Solis, the Secretary of Labor in 2011. While desk job related injuries aren’t always very obvious, other industries put employees at a greater risk for major physical injury. But any workplace injury or illness, no matter how it’s caused, inevitably disables and hurts workers and their families – sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently.

Unfortunately, job-related illnesses and injuries may be doing more harm than we thought – not just to individuals, which is bad enough, but to companies and the economy as well. According to ucdmc.ucdavis.edu, “In the first comprehensive review of its kind since 1992, a UC Davis researcher has estimated the national annual price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses at $250 billion, much higher than generally assumed.”

To put this number into perspective:

  • It’s $31 billion more than the direct and indirect medical costs associated with treating cancer in the U.S.
  • It’s $76 billion more than the costs associated with diabetes
  • It’s $187 billion more than the costs associated with strokes

How is this possible? Often the worst costs associated with workplace injuries and illness are secondary, and are therefore easier to forget about and ignore compared to the costs being paid upfront. These secondary expenses are highlighted in this wonderful and informative infographic:

As you can see, most estimates indicate that only 29% of any injury-associated costs are direct; the rest are all associated with indirect costs.

While data indicates that some industries or occupations are more likely than others to face certain risks or contribute to injury and illness costs, the truth is that any and every industry today can and does deal with these expenses. While some accidents are more common than others, frequent and infrequent types of accidents alike can lead to injury and tragedy. When you add in the fact that modern day occupational injuries and illnesses cost about $33 billion more today than they did in 1992 (once adjusted for inflation), it’s clear that something has to be done.

It’s time for every employer to put more emphasis on the reduction of work-related injury and illnesses, to reduce costs and, more importantly, to help the American workers who deserve better.

What do you think about this latest research? What has your workplace does to address its specific potential work-related injuries and illnesses? Let us know in the comments!

10 Tips For Building A Safer, Healthier Workplace

While all companies and businesses have different end goals, one thing that they should all have in common is the desire to build a safe(r) workplace. Not only is it an employer’s legal responsibility to do this but a work safety culture can ultimately benefit a company’s bottom line.

The value of a safe workplace cannot be overstated. Consider this: OSHA has calculated that businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses. Creating a safer work environment for employees ensures that these costs are lowered, leaving more in a the bank for business investments and operations.

In addition to this financial benefit, safe workplaces lead to improved productivity and increased employee morale. After all, happy employees are more likely to put more energy into their job, rather than quit or slack while on-duty.

All of these things are reasons to invest in a safer workplace. Exactly what this means will range between businesses – after all, safety in a sit-down office job will differ greatly from the safety procedures required for a fuel distributor, lubricant distributor, or other industrial or manufacturing-type of job.

However, certain steps can be taken no matter what industry a business is involved in to evaluate and improve workplace safety. Those steps, according to safetyworksmaine.com, are:

  1. Understand how a safety and healthy workplace benefits workers, families, businesses, and the community.
  2. Know your responsibilities for keeping a safe and healthy workplace.
  3. Develop a system for organizing safety and health efforts.
  4. Know the laws and regulations for the work you do.
  5. Address specific workplace hazards and have regular saving meetings.
  6. Cultivate a safety culture with mutual respect and open communication
  7. Celebrate your accomplishments and defer OSHA inspections with SHARP or other recognition events.
  8. Find out the best solutions to safety and health problems.
  9. Ask questions about workplace safety and health.
  10. Get help. Keeping a workplace safe and healthy is not something you can do alone.

Did you implement items on this list already? Will you do so now? Tell us your stories and leave your feedback in the comments – we’d love to hear them!

How To Drive Safely Into Spring This Year

The first day of spring is just under two weeks away! But while the change in season will certainly be a welcome one after this brutal winter, it’s important to remember that the transition from winter to spring is also a time when drivers need to be extra vigilant.

While winter weather and the difficulties of driving through snow, ice and potholes are often viewed as the bigger of two evils, spring weather can be equally difficult for a driver to deal with. Heavy rains often pose a unique set of challenges; in addition, if drivers fail to bring their cars in for regular maintenance, the problems with a car’s batteries, tires, brakes and suspensions that are often caused by winter weather driving can quickly become dangerous during the change in season.

Fortunately, it just takes a few small adjustments and actions to make spring driving that much safer. For starters, knowing exactly what the spring weather could potentially mean for you on the road will allow you to take precautions behind the wheel. Just a few great spring driving tips as highlighted by American Family Insurance are:

  • When rain or mist begins, slow down.
  • Turn on your fan and defroster to keep the inside of your windshield clear of moisture.
  • Avoid driving through big puddles; splashing water could affect your brakes and impair the vision of other motorists.
  • Be alert for icy conditions caused by thawing snow, spring rains or mist, especially in shaded areas, and on bridges and overpasses. These areas tend to freeze first.
  • Look carefully for pedestrians; they can be difficult to see in rain and fog. (Don’t count on them looking out for you.)

However, it is just as important – if not more so – to take your vehicle in for inspection and maintenance overhaul before the worst of the spring weather begins. One dealer, Yankee Ford, highly recommends adding these 10 things to your car’s spring cleaning checklist:

  1. Test and replace old or weak batteries, plugs & wires
  2. Check your car’s tire pressure
  3. Inspect your car’s belts and hoses to find any that are cracked and need to be repaired
  4. Have your vehicle’s brake system inspected
  5. Check the suspension and wheel alignment
  6. Review your car’s fluid levels (i.e. engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze/coolant, windshield washer fluid)
  7. Change your engine’s air filter
  8. Inspect your vehicle’s windshield wipers for cracks and damage
  9. Clean the interior of your car
  10. Clean the exterior of your car

It’s as simple as that! By reviewing safe driving tips and giving your vehicle a thorough inspection, you’ll be able to smoothly drive into this wonderful change of season. Have questions or concerns? We recommend getting in touch with a local dealer – or leave your feedback in the comments, and we’ll do our best to help!

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