Industrial & Field Ergonomics

APHIS Ergonomics


Preventing lower back discomfort and injuries when performing industrial and field tasks can readily be achieved by incorporating good body mechanics. Check out the following tips to see how you can maintain a healthy back.

LIFTING WITH PROPER POSTURE

Lifting is strenuous — it requires proper training and technique. By lifting with your large, strong leg muscles instead of the small muscles of the back, you can prevent back injuries and reduce low back pain. There are five steps to follow when lifting an object:
 

1.  GET CLOSE TO THE LOAD
  Get as close to the load as possible — as if you're hugging the object. Having the object close to your body puts less force on your low back.
2. MAINTAIN YOUR CURVE
  Keep yourself in an upright position while squatting to pick up objects.
3.  TIGHTEN YOUR STOMACH MUSCLES
  Tightening the stomach helps support the spine. Don't hold your breath while tightening the muscles.
4. LIFT WITH YOUR LEGS
  Your legs are the strongest muscles in your body — so use them.
5. PIVOT DON'T TWIST
  Turn with your feet, not your back. It isn't built for twisting from side to side.

 
Large or Heavy Loads 

If a load is too heavy to lift alone, ask for help. Pick one person to coach the lift — this way you lift and lower at the same time.

Overhead Loads
If a load is above your shoulders, use a step stool to elevate yourself until the load is at least chest level — preferably waist height. Pull the object close to your body and then lift. Remember to maintain your curves — use your arms and legs to do the work.
 

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BACK
 

Remember - Maintain Your Curves 
The muscles in the back are unlike many other muscles in your body— they are almost always in use. They hold your torso in an upright position throughout your day. They assist you every time you pick something up, whether it's a pen or a concrete block. They support posture while you sit in your chair, and they even work at night when you sleep.

In order for you to understand what is good posture and what is bad posture— let's take a look at how your back is designed:

Three Curves of Your Back 
Your back is composed of three natural curves that form an S-shape. When your three natural curves are properly aligned, your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. Without support from strong, flexible muscles, your back loses its three natural curves. Poor posture can lead to pain and serious injury.

When you use good posture, your back is aligned in three natural curves supported by strong, flexible muscles. Good posture helps prevent back strain and pain.

WHOLE-BODY VIBRATION

Whole-body vibration is experienced in any work condition that involves sitting, standing, or lying on a vibrating surface. Excessive levels and durations of exposure to whole-body vibrations may contribute to back pain and performance problems.

If you spend a considerable amount of your work day on a vibrating seat or floor and experience any of the following signs or symptoms, contact your Area Safety and Health Specialist:

HAND/ARM VIBRATION

Vibrating hand tools or work pieces transmit vibrations to the holder, and depending on the vibration level and duration factors, may contribute to Raynaud's syndrome or vibration-induced white finger disorders. These disorders show a progression of symptoms beginning with occasional or intermittent numbness or blanching of the tips of a few fingers to more persistent attacks, affecting greater parts of most fingers and reducing tactile discrimination and manual dexterity. If you notice the onset of any of these symptoms, contact your Collateral Duty Safety and Health Officer.

The following recommendations can help reduce the likelihood of developing hand-arm vibration syndromes:

HAND TOOL USE & SELECTION PRINCIPLES

Implementing the following suggestions for proper selection and usage of hand tools will help reduce the likelihood of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) in the hands, wrists, and arms:


If your job involves the frequent use of hand-tools and you frequently experience numbing, blanching, pins-and-needles, or dull pain in the hands or forearms, contact your Collateral Duty Safety and Health Officer.

WARMING UP FOR WORK

Just as an athlete prepares before playing a sport, you too should prepare before work to help prevent back injuries. It doesn't take much time to improve the strength and flexibility of your back. In just 10 minutes a day, you can perform a few exercises, which can prevent a lifetime of low back pain!

Partial Sit-Ups 
This exercise strengthens your stomach muscles:


Bridges 
This exercise strengthens your low back:


Wall Slide 
This strengthens your back and leg muscles:

AEROBIC EXERCISE

Aerobic exercise also stretches and strengthens the muscles that support your low back, which combined with healthy eating can also help you maintain your ideal weight. If you are overweight, the extra pounds add to the strain on your low back. Aerobic exercise like walking, can help you lose weight.

PROPER REST

The best position for resting the back muscles is lying on your back on your living room floor with a pillow under your knees and a rolled up towel under your neck. You can also lie on your side in the fetal position— bend the knees to reduce strain on the low back and put a pillow between your knees, and under your head and neck to keep them level.