Construction and transportation have the highest rate of back injury, more than any other industries. In construction, 25% of all injuries are back injuries—that’s 1 out of every 4! So, as much of a headache it can be to think about, preventing back injuries on the job is an absolute must for any worksite.
Unfortunately, the reality is that unless you duct tape hand trucks to the back of your workers, you can’t force your people NOT to strain their backs. What you can do is make preventing these types of injuries a priority and provide your workers with the information and motivation to make smart on-site decisions.
Here are some successful approaches that can help prevent unnecessary injuries on your worksites.
Get executive buy in. Creating a work environment that takes back safety seriously first requires establishing that it’s a priority in your organization. If you’re not the owner, then you need to make sure he agrees with your position and pushes to bring the entire organization together to support the initiative.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Advertisers say a consumer needs to see an ad 5 times before they can remember the ad. It’s what they call “day after recall.” Don’t be afraid to spread your message, put it on posters and hang them around the worksite, make it a part of weekly meetings, make sure they hear you, repeat the message, and then repeat it again.
Make sure everyone is on the same page. You’ll need everyone to be on the same page to make back safety a priority and create policies that reinforce safe worksite behavior. Without a company-wide focus, employees may underestimate the importance of the policy and go about business as usual. That’s when injuries occur.
Reinforce your ideas from the bottom-up. When you establish policies that specifically highlight back safety and injury prevention, your employees know that engaging in risky behavior isn’t just a “guideline”—it’s a violation of company policy and requires their attention. Take time to craft your message and then share it consistently and persistently within your company.
Get creative with your policies. Use creative programs that get the message across and reinforce company policy. Create an “I-got-your-back” program that requires employees to ask for help from fellow workers when lifting oversized or heavy objects–50lbs, 80lbs, whatever makes sense for your worksite and employees.
Bring in an expert. Having a supervisor or company owner talk about back safety can often muddy the message. Employees might not be able to resist a snicker at a meeting where their boss is showing them how to bend over to lift something. Having an independent third-party like a chiropractor, physical therapist, or trainer will add credibility and avoid any distractions. Also, these individuals are trained to demonstrate proper lifting techniques and can make the process fun, interesting, and informative.
Avoid incentive programs. A study in 2009 by the Government Accountability Office found that safety incentive programs can “provide disincentives for workers to report injuries and illnesses to their employers.” Instead of bribing your people, spend more time explaining the benefits of keeping a healthy back throughout their lifetime and back up your words with policy, equipment, and executive attention to the issue.
These are just a few things you can do to help prevent an injury on your site. ALTRES is the only staffing company in Hawaii that has an entire department dedicated to risk management and injury prevention. Contact me and I can set up a special session on preventing back injuries and other programs that create a safer, more profitable worksite.