Workplace back injuries are on the rise, including anything from mild to severe back pain and related musculoskeletal disorders. If you’ve ever experienced a back injury, getting back to your normal life is the goal-especially if you’ve had to take time off from work and daily routines. When returning to work, you’ll want to make sure you stay on the mend, so it’s important to identify what caused your back pain or injury to begin with and take measures in your workplace to prevent re-injury. Effective back-to-work measures are important not only to injured employees, but to employers who benefit by ensuring your most efficient work in a healthy manner. With this focus, employers will minimize the hefty price of absenteeism, job coverage, and workers’ compensation fees as well as the hidden costs (most insurance companies estimate the hidden costs for injuries are eight times the cost of an injury).
How to Prevent a Back Injury from Reoccurring
Depending on the nature and cause of your back injury, here are some workplace adjustments to consider for preventing re-occurrence/further injury:
- Reduced work hours
- Work hour adjustments so as to avoid peak traveling times
- Job modifications (i.e. lighter duties, rotating tasks, or job sharing)
- Ergonomic office furniture
- Ergonomic training
- Biomechanics training
- Posture training
- Reconfiguration of your workstation/personal work area to optimally suit you, including your desk, computer screen, and chair, longer cords for easy reach
- Fixing faulty equipment
- Regular stretching or walking breaks
You can also take steps outside of the work setting to prevent future back injury or alleviate pain and discomfort caused by musculoskeletal disorders. These measures include seeing an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, consulting with ergonomists, receiving acupuncture, massage, practicing yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi, or going online to learn simple back and neck desk exercises or back-friendly stretching routines. Getting expert advice on your limitations and movement/exercise recommendations can go a long way towards healing and strengthening.
Considerations for an Ergonomic Office Equipment
It’s important to know what to shop for if you and your employer have wisely decided to invest in good ergonomic equipment and high-quality ergonomic chairs always boast excellent lumbar (low back) support and offer features such as adjustable height, adjustable armrests (if needed), seat height and backrest tilt options to relieve pressure on the upper and lower back (i.e. reclined, forward, and upright positions). Also look for seat depth adjustment to support your thighs and for a flexible chair back which conforms to the natural curvatures of your spine, giving your back the support it needs in all the right places.
To choose an ergonomic office desk, look for adjustable height desks with plenty of desktop space for easy reach of frequently used items. You should also check out some of the latest and more technically advanced options, such as ergonomic sit-stand desks. These genius innovations can be raised and lowered by remote control, allowing you to alternate between sitting and standing positions and protect your back by minimizing prolonged sitting postures.
Whether you’re a top exec, the company CEO, or simply have flair for the finer things in life, you’ll be happy to know that while you focus on choosing the correct high back office chair, you won’t have to sacrifice function for fashion. Today’s ergonomic furnishings come in an array of modish, sleek, modern designs, styles and colors.
What to do in Case of a Serious Back Injury?
With a more serious back injury, it’s important to know your rights. Don’t forget to visit the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs to learn what kind of disability benefits you are eligible for and whether your back injury constitutes a total, partial, short-term or long-term disability. Keep in mind that while you can request continuation of your regular salary while recuperating, Workers’ Comp payments for temporary disability may not exceed 45 calendar days or annual leave.
Good communication and positive relations with your employer/workplace and co-workers are important for your full recovery. Putting your heads together, you should be able to come up with a safe and effective return-to-work process that will protect your back from re-injury and protect your job for longevity.
Author Byline: Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.