U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Hot Work
Hazard: Improper Body Positioning
A worker went to the medical department and reported that he had been having low back pain for some time. He enjoyed his work and had previously dismissed the pain as the normal aches and pains associated with the job and had been treating himself with aspirin. As a burner and welder he would frequently perform his work while bent over at the waist for a considerable time. Lately, he had been experiencing severe pain when bending at the waist and had developed a weakness in his left leg that seemed to be getting worse. Concerned, he sought treatment.
Analysis and Preventive Measures
Bending forward at the waist and maintaining a bent-over posture places a significant strain on the lower back, compresses the spine and over time can cause damage to the shock absorbing pads or disks which are located between the vertebrae. In this case, a herniated or ruptured disk developed creating pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves to the workers leg. Treatment for this condition included permanent work restrictions.
Maintaining strength and flexibility in the muscles of the abdomen, back, buttocks and thighs will reduce the risk of back injury. Whenever possible work should be positioned to avoid or limit the amount of bending required. When work must be performed in a bent over position, stopping and stretching periodically will help strained muscles to recover. Had this worker reported his back pain earlier, permanent damage may have been avoided simply by providing a sufficient period of time for full recovery to take place. Instruction from medical personnel on early intervention techniques such as exercise may also help to minimize the risk of injury.