Back Ache In Flooring
John McDonald on dealing with back pain
BACK pain is the second most common cause of long-term sickness in the UK after stress. Over 7 million working days are lost annually due to work-related back pain.
The costs of back pain to society and the economy run into billions of pounds. There is also a high price for individual companies when key workers are off ill for any length of time.
The construction trades are particularly prone to back pain.
Floorlayers, for example, have to kneel, stoop, bend and crouch; as well as pushing, pulling or dragging heavy rolls of carpet and other floorcoverings, while stretching, twisting and reaching.
The most common causes of back pain are strained muscles or ligaments, wear and tear, bad posture and stress.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued advice for employers on how to manage back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. It includes helping injured people to remain in work or to make an earlier return.
HSE advises employers comply with their legal requirements and to minimise the risk to their employees of developing back pain or making existing back pain worse.
Aside from floorlayers, back pain can be caused to staff in various roles, such as:
l manual handling in awkward places, like delivery work;
l repetitive tasks, such as manual packing of goods;
l sitting at a workstation for a long period of time if the workstation is not correctly arranged or adjusted to fit the person, for example working with computers;
l driving long distances or driving over rough ground, particularly if the seat is not, or cannot be, properly adjusted or adequately sprung.
Employers have a legal duty to consult employees or elected representatives.
Some people are more susceptible to back pain than others, so it is important to consult employees in the risk assessment process.
Steps to reduce the risk of back pain in the workplace include:
l Think about how you can make jobs physically easier, e.g. by moving loads on wheels, providing better handles on loads, adjusting heights of worktops etc.
l Consult regularly with the employees on their health and well being to help you identify concerns and developing trends.
l Take actions to address any outcomes from these discussions.
l Respond promptly when an individual worker reports back pain.
l Do risk assessments – and make changes where needed.
THE best treatment for back pain is generally to stay active and, if necessary, use over-the-counter painkillers. You may feel like going to bed, but this won’t help and could make it worse.
The longer you’re immobile, the weaker your back muscles will become, and the more they will hurt in the long term.
The best ways to deal with pain and help your back to recover are to maintain your mobility, based on your usual activities, and return to work as soon as possible.
Any exercise that strengthens your legs, back and stomach will help to keep your back healthy.
At your desk: Sitting badly in front of a computer for hours on end is storing up trouble.
The body can tolerate being in one position for only a short period of time before you feel the need to adjust.
Workstation factors that can affect your back include: seating posture; computer screen position; chair height; keyboard position; mouse position; and desk equipment layout.
l Good posture when sitting at a desk can help prevent repetitive strain injury (RSI), which is a cause of back pain.
Sit up straight and make sure that your lower back is supported.
Adjusting your chair: By law, workstation chairs must be stable.
The standard office chair has five legs in a star shape.
The seat height must be adjustable, and the back rest must be adjustable in height and tilt.
Ideally, the back rest should move independently of the seat to allow a comfortable position.
When you’re sitting, your thighs should be at right angles to your body or sloping slightly down.
If your chair is properly adjusted, your feet should be firmly on the floor, but if it’s more comfortable, use a footrest.
The basic rule is to plant your feet on the floor and support your back.
For a healthy back:
Take regular breaks from your desk or your work;
Vary your activities throughout the day;
Sit up straight;
Mind your posture; and
Lose any excess weight.
Lifting safely: One of the biggest causes of back injury, especially at work, is lifting or handling objects incorrectly. Learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling objects can help to prevent back pain.
Key points for lifting safely:
Think before you lift;
Start in a good position;
Keep the load close to your waist;
Keep your back as straight as possible;
Avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways;
Keep your head up;
Know your limits;
Push heavy objects, don’t pull them;
Distribute the weight evenly; and
Take regular breaks (Frequent short breaks are better for your back than fewer long ones. Short breaks give the muscles a chance to relax while others take the strain. This can prevent you from becoming stiff and tense.)
Note also: Smoking can reduce blood flow to the lower spine and cause the spinal discs to degenerate.
Psychosocial factors such as stress, anxiety, depression and poor job satisfaction can also cause physical symptoms, including back pain.
John MacDonald is a director of Tara Management Services
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.