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Safety engineers focus on the back

Safety engineers focus on the back

DALLAS — Back injuries caused by improper lifting technique often result from the perception that workers should “lift with their legs” or “put some back into it,” according to a speaker at the American Society of Safety Engineers' Safety 2015 Professional Development Conference & Exposition in Dallas.

Workers are typically trained to keep their backs straight and lift with their legs, but lifting also requires people to use their hands, arms and shoulders, said Tony Canizales, vice president of loss control for DiBuduo & DeFendis Insurance Brokers L.L.C. in Fresno, California.

Sometimes workers are told not to lift above their shoulders, which isn't realistic at many jobs, added Mr. Canizales, who led a session about back injury prevention at the conference on Monday.

When a worker experiences a back injury and it's determined that improper lifting was the root cause, many safety professionals will retrain that individual before they're cleared to return to work, Mr. Canizales said.

However, workers are often just “retrained on the same information they had before they were injured,” he added.

Lifting safely is “not just about bending your legs,” Mr. Canizales said. “It's a whole lot more complex than that. Why are we trained that way? Because it's easy.”

Mr. Canizales suggested making training interactive and suggested showing workers how holding even a 5-pound dumbbell in different ways changes the difficulty.

It's important to consider the weight and the way it's being lifted, as the further weight is from a person's center, the more stress it puts on their body, he said — adding that the strongest part of the body when executing a lift is the abdomen, not the legs.

Citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mr. Canizales said more than 1 million workers suffer back injuries each year, which means back injuries account for one out of every five workplace injuries and illnesses.

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