Those American workers that do repetitive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, and restraining objects by hand need to be in good shape to be able to perform their jobs without suffering the consequences.  Lower back pain accounts for about one-quarter of all lost work time in the United States.  Overexertion has been listed as the cause of lower back pain by 60% of those people who experience it.  There can be many causes that contribute to back pain besides work.  It can be aggravated by not being physically fit, recreational activities, being overweight, aging, and stress.  Add one of those to handling manual materials on a daily basis, and you have a problem. 

We don’t think about it, but during our lifetime, we all handle heavy objects.  How many babies have you carried around until they could walk?  (They aren’t materials, but they do need to be lifted and carried.) Think about all the heavy work you have done in and around your house through the years, and although it doesn’t compare to the daily work that others do, it is a reminder that we go through life doing heavy tasks that require strength.  One thing that always was awkward: putting a wheelchairinto the trunk of the car.  My mom was an invalid and when I would take her to the mall for outings or to our home, I would have to lift the wheelchair in and out of the car and help her into it.  You really get into some awkward positions and feel it in your back.  So I empathize with those caregivers who have to get in many awkward positions in order to assist their patients. 

When you think of those whose job is to lift –  nurses, health caregivers, parcel delivery persons, warehouse workers, manufacturing employees, those who load and unload trucks, and movers are just a few that come to mind.   Fatigue should be reduced as much as possible through the proper ergonomic assessments.  Proper lifting techniques must be taught, and supervisors should observe that they are being followed.  Videotaping workers can be a tool to determine how they can do their job in a way that alleviates straining the back.  Serious injury can be the result of work exceeding a person’s physical abilities. 

Our posture plays an important part in how we feel, too.  Strengthening muscles, and stretching before beginning the workday can make big differences.  Companies should keep their employees actively engaged in the planning phase of the ergonomic work structure.  Cranes, hoists, carts, and dollies can be utilized to reduce the strain from lifting.  Personal protective equipment, such as safety shoes, gloves, eye protection and OSHA hard hats should be included in the workers’ gear.  If it fits comfortably, it won’t hinder the workers as they perform their duties.

If the workplace is ergonomically designed to assist workers and keep them safe, the result for the company will be an increase in productivity and decrease in injuries.