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ACCOMODATIONS: Ergonomics

Do Back Belts Protect Workers? (Adapted from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 1997)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts research and provides scientifically valid recommendations for the prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses. According to NOISH:

Back injuries account for nearly 20% of all injury & illnesses in the workplace. Work related back injuries cost the nation an est. $20 - 50 billion per year.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of workers who rely on back belts to prevent injury during lifting.

Facts on Back Injuries and Back Belts

The decision to wear a back belt is a personal choice. NIOSH believes that workers and employers should have the best available information to make that decision. 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. NIOSH doesn't recommend the use of back belts to prevent injuries among workers who have never been injured.

Back belt use shouldn't be a mandatory job requirement, as they may provide the worker with a false sense of security in lifting large weights and therefore increase the risk of serious injury.

So, rather than relying solely on back belts, NIOSH recommends that employers and workers minimize their risk of back injury by developing and implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program.

A program of this nature should focus on prevention and:

include an assessment of all work activities to ensure that tasks can be accomplished without exceeding the physical capabilities of the worker; incorporate on-going, comprehensive training for all workers on lifting mechanics and techniques; provide a surveillance program to identify potential work-related musculoskeletal problems; and include a medical management program.

For More Information:

Check Out the NIOSH Pamphlet: BACK BELTS Do They Prevent Injury?