Pacific Employers Advisors to
* Back Safety #2 *
SAVE YOUR BACK WHEN WORKING IN AWKWARD POSITIONS
We have all been told to avoid back injury by bending our knees when we
lift, keeping the load close and avoiding twisting motions. These safety rules may be
appropriate for simple, direct lifting of materials, but what about back care when you are
working in awkward positions? Work tasks that require you to reach or stretch away from
your body while handling materials can also put excessive strain on the vertebral discs
and soft tissues in the back. An awkward position is a work posture that distorts the
spine from its natural curves, puts unbalanced pressure on the discs, and can strain arm,
leg or back tissues if held for any length of time.
What are some work situations that may put you in "awkward"
- Jobs that require you to bend and reach into bins or containers to
retrieve or place material.
- Overhead work, installing or servicing equipment, pulling wire, cleaning
- Floor or ground level jobs such as installing or servicing equipment,
- Work tasks in confined or small spaces where there is limited range of
motion such as boilers, hatches, pipes, tanks, vaults, crawl spaces, etc.
- Jobs on ladders, work platforms or scaffolding where you may over-reach
to adjust, clean, install or service.
- Pulling loads, instead of pushing them, when removing equipment or other
- Repetitive tasks that require twisting of the back such as loading or
handling material 90o to 180o from the starting point
How can you avoid injury when working in awkward positions?
- Raise bins and containers off the floor and/or tilt them to reduce
bending and over-reaching.
- When working overhead, stand on a steady and adjustable platform. Keep
your back posture in its natural curve to avoid uneven spinal loading.
- If working on the floor, avoid bending over to work. Squat down using
your leg muscles and wear cushioned knee pads if you have to kneel at work.
- In confined spaces, plan your work, and reduce clutter in the area which
confines you further and increases the need to twist or overreach. Also arrange for
- Don't hold an awkward position for too long. Pause often to stretch and
- When leaning forward to work, support the weight of your upper body on
your free hand and arm, whenever possible. This greatly relieves pressure on your lower
- Position yourself as close as possible to the job, avoid overreaching
and/or use tools with longer handles when working on ladders or scaffolding.
- Never lift heavy loads that are far from your body's center of gravity.
Get help in such cases.
- Position your work below the shoulder and above the knees to minimize
- Push, rather than pull, loads to help maintain the spine's natural curve.
- Remember that a back support belt may remind you to lift correctly, but
it will not protect your spine if you overreach or twist with a load.
What specific awkward positions do you face
in your work?
* Work Smarter & Safer
- Not Harder *
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Copyright © 1999 by David E. Miller