Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator
Back pain can be a common issue in the agricultural industry because of the physical nature of work and the vast array of tasks associated with agriculture. Many workers are required to do heavy lifting, a tremendous amount of walking and work in awkward positions to complete tasks. There are a number of factors that can contribute to back pain including force, posture, repetition, and even inactivity. Back injuries can be chronic or short term, but at some point everyone will experiences some form of back injury. Once a back injury has occurred, special consideration needs to be given to the spine, muscles and tendons to prevent a back injury from occurring again. There are several measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of a back injury and many tasks can be modified to relieve stress placed on the back. Some guidelines include:
- Maintain good posture. Don’t slouch and when standing balance your weight evenly on your feet.
- Avoid working in awkward positions or standing for long periods of time.
- When changing directions turn with your feet, not your waist.
- Wear boots with high quality insoles and support the ankles reduces back pain.
- Use correct lifting posture every time. Use your legs to lift, instead of bending at the back.
- When carrying things keep them close to the body and make more trips carrying smaller loads.
- Limit repetitive tasks and chores involving poor posture. Alternating this type of task with less strenuous tasks can be effective at preventing back injuries.
- “Push” rather than “pull” objects.
- Carts and wheelbarrows are efficient and effective to use when feeding livestock or moving bulking or heavy items.
- Minimize stumbling or fall hazards by practicing good housekeeping methods in all areas of the farm.
- Utilize the right tool for the job and allow the tool to do the work. Minimize excessive force when operating tools.
- When in the seat of equipment, adjust the seat to position the thighs parallel to the floor.
- Consider installing mirrors or cameras on equipment to reduce the need to turn.
- Replace older equipment seating with new seats that have adjustable lumbar support, arm rests and adjustable positioning.
- Modify tasks or work methods to reduce the number of times needed to get on and off equipment.
- Listen to your body. Pain is the communication from your body that an injury is occurring or about to occur.