Does being overweight risk a back injury?

As a commentary on musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s) rather than dietary advise, I thought it important to answer a question I am consistently asked during or after our Backsafe Manual Handling Training Sessions – “Is being overweight a risk of incurring a back injury?”

The answer is yes – but so are other issues such as not completing warm-ups and stretches before manually handling goods, materials or equipment. If you have been storing up a bit of extra weight over this summer period, then your core strength has also probably suffered to some degree.  But even if you have been working out and paying particular attention to your core, if the first thing you do on your shift is bend over to pick up a load or your toolbox – without warming up first – then you are likely to contribute to the degeneration of your lower discs.

Back injuries occur one bad lift, one bad twist, one bad tilt over 20 degrees or one backwards bend over 5 degrees at a time.

The cumulative effect of these poor manual handling habits is the main reason that 80% of our workforce is suffering from lower back problems, not to mention shoulder injuries resulting from reaching out for loads.

We all know that working people are supposed to bend their knees, keep their back straight up and down, hold their load close, and not reach out up or down for a load, yet most of them continue to do these tasks incorrectly and cause themselves musculoskeletal injuries.

The reason for this is that most trainers or inductors have not told them “why” they need to change their old poor habits.  So, these bad manual handling habits persist even after some instruction or training. Staff see no value in changing their poor and extant manual handling habits and the result has been a growing epidemic of MSD’s in our workplaces.

The amount of surplus body fat carried by individuals varies person to person or even year to year in the same person. Muscle, blood, skin and bone require an ongoing supply of body building nutrients in order to sustain the life process.

Not so your stored body fat. Body fat is rather an inert mass which just hangs around getting in the way. It does not require feeding but will increase in volume if a person persists in eating and drinking fat forming foods. Increased weight bent forward to pick up a toolbox or even a pen, multiplies the leverage effect on the back and will cause a cumulative trauma injury.

We have been working on a project to show interested staff how to reduce stored body fat and all Backsafe Training will make this info available to all trainees in 2020.  Now we want to work on breaking the bad manual handling habit that staff relentlessly carry from one job to another.

All working people must be shown the value of correct manual handling habits to be able to change their extant violations of the Hazardous Manual Handling Code of Practice. If manual handling training concentrates on eliminating what we call our Backsafe 4 Don’ts most workplaces will reduce their exposure to MSD injuries by up to 80%.

For more information or to discuss your training needs please call Peter Broadbent on 0414 460 859.


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