How to prevent back injuries

Updated Jan 7, 2019

Safety Watch #28

The accident: A crew member is loading project materials from the landscape company’s lot onto the bed of a pickup truck. He bends down to grab a stack of pavers, twists his body to place them in the bed and feels a snap in his back. He falls to the ground and calls 911 from his cell phone. He is transported to the hospital where he is treated for swelling and pain caused by a pinched lumbar nerve.

The bottom line: Lifting injuries are far too common in the industry, and their effects can last a lifetime. While carrying and moving materials – like trees, cement blocks, flagstone or bags of fertilizer – might be a regular part of a crew’s day, there are measures they can take to prevent back problems.

  • Perform stretching exercises before starting work each day, and stay in good physical shape.
  • When possible, use equipment such as forklifts, skid steers or hand trucks to lift materials. Or, slide loads.
  • If you think something weighs more than 50 pounds, ask for help from another coworker.
  • Take breaks to avoid prolonged periods of lifting.
  • Wear sturdy work boots or shoes with nonslip soles.
  • Keep the load close to your body and directly in front of you. Bend your knees, lift with your legs and keep your back straight.
  • Avoid lifting loads higher than chest high.
  • Don’t preform strenuous activities while your body is in a twisted or bent position.
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