With current escalating health care costs, it is prudent to
perform pre-employment screenings of job applicants to avoid potentially
expensive work-related health claims in the future. Employee education is
also of great importance. Unfortunately, most formal programs only
instruct in proper use of body mechanics during lifting tasks and routine job
activities. They usually fail to instruct their clients in the performance
of an adequate stretching and strengthening program that would facilitate the
ability to attain the proper postures required to be compliant with their
recommendations for safe ergonomic requirements. For example, most workers
are intelligent enough to realize the need to use proper body mechanics, but
many men have moderate restrictions in the muscle flexibility in their hips,
which mechanically prevents them from properly adopting the correct lifting
Consider the following data from the National Institute For
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):
- Each day an average of 9,000
U.S. workers sustain disabling injuries on the job, 16 workers die from an
injury at work, and 137 workers die from work-related diseases.
- Data from a study published in
1997 funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
showed that in 1992, the economic costs of job-related injuries and illnesses
totaled $171 billion.
- These costs are much higher
than those for AIDS and Alzheimer's Disease and are on a par with those for
cancer and circulatory disease.
- Back injuries account for nearly 20%
of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace and cost the nation an
estimated 20 to 50 billion dollars per year. The National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) believes that the most effective way to
prevent back injury is to implement an ergonomics program that focuses on
redesigning the work environment and work tasks to reduce the hazards of
- However, in
response to the increasing human and economic costs of back injury, companies
have implemented numerous other measures, either in conjunction with or in
place of sound ergonomics programs. For instance, there has been a dramatic
increase in the use of industrial back belts.
- After a review of the scientific literature,
NIOSH has concluded that, because of limitations of the studies that have
analyzed workplace use of back belts, the results cannot be used to either
support or refute the effectiveness of back belts in injury reduction.
Although back belts are being bought and sold under the premise that they
reduce the risk of back injury, there is insufficient scientific evidence that
they actually deliver what is promised.
- The Institute,
therefore, does not recommend the use of back belts to prevent injuries among
workers who have never been injured.* If you or your workers are wearing back
belts as protective equipment against back injury, you should be aware of the
lack of scientific evidence supporting their use.
Risk management can be minimized via injury prevention education
and pre-employment screening. Workplace ergonomics are reviewed in
relation to the principles involved in adaptive muscle shortening (AMS) and
repetitive stress injury (RSI), with an emphasis on optimization of health and
Formal lecture presentations are designed in accord with the
individual needs and interests of a given work environment. I have created
a wellness exercise program that promotes normal muscle and joint flexibility
and protects against the occurrence of work-related injuries. Handouts are
made available for employees as a reliable reference guide. Through
education in the nature of AMS and RSI, employees are encouraged to accept
accountability for performance of a well-defined daily stretching program.
site last updated on February 11, 2010 by
J. Fransen, P.T.
Copyright © 1997-2011 Paul J. Fransen, P.T. All Rights Reserved