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Lower back injuries: Can you rely on your employer's backing?

Along with all the billions of dollars that back injury claims cost industries in New York City and Long Island, they also cause employees pain and suffering that might be part of the rest of their lives. Authorities say the prevention of these injuries is a major safety challenge in different industries. Reportedly, a significant percentage of harm to workers' backs result from lifting, as material handling positions require employees to lift, place, carry, hold and lower heavy items as part of their daily jobs.

While nobody has been able to find a method to fully eliminate this problem, safety authorities have suggested ways that may prevent a significant percentage of these injuries. If your job is one that involves tough lifting and moving of equipment, you might be interested in the suggested programs to help reduce these types of injuries -- specifically the ones that result from lifting.

Methods of control for limiting work-related injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that along with addressing the ergonomics of work areas, the implementation of two types of control may limit the number of back injuries suffered by workers.

1. Administrative control -- This method involves careful matching of workers with tasks, and includes the implementation of the following:

  • Testing the strengths of existing employees and any new workers who join the company are necessary to put this method of control in place. This can eliminate the risk of you doing a job that requires strength that exceeds your capabilities, thus lowering the odds of a back injury.
  • If you receive training in lifting techniques that prevent excessive strain on your lower back, you will be less prone to back injuries.
  • Being aware of your physical conditioning and the importance of doing a few stretching exercises before work may also limit harm to your lower back.

2. Engineering control -- This method involves redesigning jobs to make them less hazardous. Some of the implementations from this method include the following:

  • Following parameters of maximum weights and sizes for objects workers will be lifting might eliminate many oversized items that pose a significant injury risk.
  • Adjusting the heights of shelves and pallets to more accessible levels can lower your odds of suffering a back injury due to eliminating the need for you to lift an object at a level below your knees or above your shoulders.
  • If your employer installs mechanical aids, you may never be at risk for many typical workplace injuries. These aids include conveyors, pneumatic lifts and other automated equipment for materials handling.

These methods of control may limit the risks for back injuries, but other factors also play significant roles in lifting safety. These include the frequency at which you must lift heavy objects, the duration of continuous lifting activities and the type of objects. Also, does it have handles, can you carry it against your body and how far must you carry it? Other individual variables include your age, gender, body size, health condition, general fitness and physical strength.

If you are suffering the consequences of a lower back injury that resulted from unsafe lifting at work, you are entitled to pursue recovery of medical expenses and lost wages. However, in some cases, it is hard to prove such injuries to be work-related, and this is where the assistance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can be instrumental. A skilled New York lawyer can navigate your claim and fight for compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost income, and more.

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