Back Injuries: The Leading Cause of WCB Claims
Lifting, bending, pulling, pushing, throwing, catching, twisting, reaching, stumbling, falling – it is virtually an endless list of the ways in which you can strain, sprain or injure your back. Whether it’s on the job or away from the workplace, whether it is a workers’ compensation claim, insurance claim or just a period of recovery, the cost of back injuries to employers is enormous, and it has become the leading cause of WCB claims. It is not just paying out sick time, absorbing the cost of workers’ compensation claims or the cost of accommodating an employee on modified duties, there is the loss in productivity, wages for extra help or temporary workers hired to meet deadlines or service standards and reorganizing procedures and staffing to fill the gap created by an injured worker that contribute to the impact back injuries have on society and the economy.
According to the WCB Alberta 2019 Annual Report, the most common body part injured is the back and the most frequent mechanism of injury is sprains or strains, suggesting that back sprain/strain injuries are the leading cause of WCB claims resulting in time loss. Add to this ‘no time loss’ WCB claims and non work-related back conditions that prevent workers from performing their regular job duties and it’s no wonder that back injuries are a major concern.
The most effective way to address the cost of back injuries is to reduce the number of accidents and incidents involving the back and the best way to reduce accidents and incidents is to prevent them in the first place.
Prevention begins with education. Learning and using proper lifting techniques, understanding the physical demands your job duties and keeping in shape, can all contribute to the reduction of back injuries and accidents, whether you work in a warehouse, on a job site or sitting at a desk. Even though employers have no control over incidents that occur outside of work hours, providing educational information and enforcing proper back safety on the job may create healthy back habits that extend beyond the workplace and help prevent or reduce back injuries.
Most back injuries occur due to improper body mechanics used to lift or move something. Therefore, following these few simple suggestions, could make a huge difference in your back health and susceptibility to injury:
A strong back is directly linked to strong stomach muscles and a strong core. Abdominal exercises will improve core strength and help relieve some of the stress on the back, preventing undue strain. Simple back toning exercises will keep the back in shape and strong stomach muscles will assist in lifting, carrying, pulling, pushing and posture. Remembering to do simple back stretching exercises first thing in the morning and throughout the day will keep your back muscles flexible and supple regardless of what your job demands are.
Your back compensates for added weight in your abdomen by swaying backwards. This puts unnecessary stress and strain on the lower back muscles, puts your posture out of alignment and increases the risk of a back injury. A balanced and nutritious diet will not only improve your overall health and wellbeing but will assist with weight loss, which in turn, will lessen the burden on your back, relieve the stress on other joints and reduce pain. Using a proper lifting belt can provide extra back support if necessary.
Simply by training your body to stand and sit in a proper erect manner can prevent many back pains and strains:
- Sleeping on a firm mattress prevents unnecessary strain on muscles and posture.
- Sleeping on your side with your knees bent or on your back with a pillow under your knees can relieve stress and strain on the small of your back
- Standing erect, sitting up straight and concentrating on good posture will help strengthen and lengthen the back muscles.
- Hunching, stooping and slouching can lead to laxity in the ligaments in the spine which can leave you more susceptible to injury.
Many back strains and sprains can be avoided by taking the time to assess the situation before you start. It is essential to plan every lift, push, pull and move in advance, so stop to consider the following:
- What does the item weigh?
- Where does it have to go?
- How much manpower is required to get it there?
- What is in the way? Is the path clear?
- Is there equipment that can be used to assist the process?
Once you have assessed the situation, obtained any extra help and equipment that may be required, it is vital to ensure you are using proper lifting techniques:
- Make sure your body is correctly aligned in front of the object with your feet apart, bend your knees to squat down, keeping your back straight, grab the object tightly with both hands, keeping it close to your body.
- Slowly stand upright, ensuring you have your balance.
- Make sure you have a line of sight to where you want to go.
- Start walking slowly.
- When you reach your destination, reverse the steps you used to pick the object up to place the object down.
- If you are working with others, use commands to coordinate when to lift, when to move, when to stop and when to release.
These tips won’t prevent all back injuries but making them part of your everyday routine will help minimize the risk of hurting your back while lifting or moving anything, anywhere, anytime.
If you would like further information on back education and health or would like to discuss a WCB back claim, you can reach us directly during business hours through our chat feature or by phone at 1-844-377-9545. You can contact us by email at [email protected] or [email protected] or you can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.