Work-Related Back Injuries
Work-related back injuries can be due to a long-term, cumulative injury sustaind from performing a repetitive task, or they can occur during an acute, short-duration event, like a trip or fall. Either can cause significant back pain.
Check out how two different, fictional special education workers have incurred back injuries on the job, and then think about the manual handling principles that might have kept them safe:
First Up Is Maggie
Maggie works in the art room in a special education setting where she is constantly leaning over tables and reaching around students to meet their physical needs. She has never bothered to set up her working stations in a way that suits her height and build. She always tries to do the best for her students and often works long hours cutting, pasting, organizing displays and preparing materials for students. She takes an anti-inflammatory when her back troubles her, and sometimes sees a masseur to relieve her lower back pain, which is a common site of back pain. She lacks assertiveness and communication skills with her peers, and so rarely asks for new equipment for herself. She has never learned about manual handling principles such as positioning yourself in a stable, comfortable position with your body well supported or moving your whole body to a new position rather than leaning outside your base of support.
And Then Ben Takes a Tumble...
Ben has taken a group of students on a camping trip. One of the visually impaired students stumbles on a log near the campfire. Ben makes a split second decision: He lunges toward the student and reaches out to catch him before he falls into the fire. Ben feels a sudden, searing burst of back pain and knows he has done some serious damage. He thinks instantly of how he had ignored the therapist only last week who had warned him about catching falling students. This inadvertent manual handling task has caused long-term problems and back pain that may last for months or even years! Oh, Ben--if only you'd known that avoiding work-related back injuries could be as simple as learning manual handling principles! You would not have attempted to stop the movement of an object that was falling away from you, and you would have know to keep heavy loads over your base of support!