Back Injuries at Work

It has been calculated that back injuries and back related pain is one of the most frequent affliction in the UK, effecting approximately 4 out of 5 people. Back injuries are also the most common reason for absence from work, costing companies millions of pounds each year due to lost productivity and sick pay.

Although back injuries can occur in a number of ways, from an accident, a fall or lifting something too heavy, one of the most common causes for back injuries and back related pain are incidents that occur in the work place.

Jobs that involve heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, particularly when there is twisting or vibrating of the spine can lead to injury and back pain. Although, an inactive job or desk job may also lead to or contribute to pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in an uncomfortable chair.

If you suffer a back injury at work, it should be reported immediately to your employer and medical treatment should be sought. In most cases the pain usually goes away without treatment, with the aid of pain medication and rest. However, sometimes, the injury may require physiotherapy treatment or in more serious cases, an operation may be necessary.

Back injuries can encompass a wide range of conditions such as strains and soft tissue injuries, disturbance of ligaments and muscles, to more serious conditions such as injuries requiring spinal fusion. Back pain can be categorised as either acute or chronic pain. If pain hits you suddenly, as usually occurs when a person falls or trips, or lifts something too heavy, it is likely to be classed as acute pain. Acute pain often comes and goes quickly and symptoms are generally not expected to last longer than 6 weeks. For back pain to be considered as chronic, the pain has to last longer than 3 months.

Common thoughts on back injuries are that they are usually a result of incorrect lifting methods and posture. Therefore, if employers require employees to lift or move heavy objects, they should carry out a risk assessment, taking into account, the working environment, the capabilities of the individual, the nature of the job and the type of load being carried. If the risk assessment highlights a potential risk, then employers are expected to offer training when an employee starts work in an attempt to avoid a back injury occurring.