A toolbox talk writer provides a few tips on reducing back injuries and other lifting-related incidents
Back injuries are one of the most common types of workplace injuries. They are especially prevalent in employees who spend a significant part of their workday lifting or carrying, or twisting and bending. Here are several ways to reduce the frequency of incidents among material handlers and other at-risk workers.
The first step in mitigating the number of lifting incidents is to develop a proper training program. This may seem like an obvious step but it’s one that many companies rush through or do improperly.
The training needs to demonstrate proper lifting technique. It should also provide education on other safe material handling practices like identifying when objects are too heavy to lift and which body positions can put excess strain on the back. Training should also cover any lifting aids that are available for use as well as provide instruction on how to safely utilize them.
A thorough back safety program will also provide coaching and plenty of supervision. This is because workers often perform lifting drills correctly during training sessions. When they get back to work, they revert to poor habits that put their back at risk. Direct supervision and correction is required to transfer classroom lessons to daily practice.
- Toolbox talks
Direct intervention can be effective but even the most diligent manager cannot monitor every employee all the time. In between training sessions and supervisor observations, employees need to be reminded about the importance of back safety as well as the practices and procedures that will prevent lifting injuries. And there’s no better way to do that than with toolbox talks.
When it comes to material handling, toolbox talks can be extremely useful at reducing injuries. They can also provide employees with quick refreshers on the correct way to lift and which body positions could lead to back issues.
To get the most value these toolbox talks, it’s important to do them regularly. The goal is to keep important concepts at the front of everyone’s minds. Don’t simply condense regularly training into a 10-minute safety talk. Instead, discuss practical issues from a variety of different angles.
The key is to get workers actively participating and sharing their ideas and perspectives. Not only will this raise everyone’s safety awareness, but it will also give the person conducting the talk a good understanding of where everyone’s head’s at when it comes to back safety. In effect, toolbox talks can extend some of the benefits of direct intervention to a group setting.
- Explain the risk and cost
The total cost of treating low back pain is $100 billion per year. And that’s only in the United States—the price tag on global treatment of back issues is much, much higher.
Even though that’s a huge number, it will also seem abstract to workers. They don’t care about impact on the national GDP or the effect on a company’s productivity. They care about how much it will cost them personally.
To reduce the number of back incidents in the workplace, you need to make workers see how damaging it can be to get hurt on the job. To do that, show how much it will cost workers in time, money and lifestyle. (This goes for any type of incident, but it’s particularly effective with back injuries.)
This means showing how their ability to earn money and support their family can be compromised if chronic pain stops them from showing up for shifts. How doctor’s appointments can eat away at their free time. And how nagging back injuries can affect their mobility and stop them from participating in recreational activities.
These three techniques aren’t the only methods of mitigating the strain that’s put on workers’ backs every day. But they are effective techniques for reducing back injuries and they should form the core of every company’s lifting safety program.
Pro Toolbox Talks produces robust and flexible safety talks on a variety of topics, including back safety, that can be used by anyone. Learn more about Pro Toolbox Talks here