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Preventing the Major Causes of Workplace Back Pain

Bookmark and Share One of the most common causes of workplace injury is basic back pain. Persistent back pain is caused by a variety of reasons and can affect those in physically demanding jobs, such as construction, as well as those in office jobs. In addition to increasing absenteeism and lowering production and efficiency, back pain also causes a significant number of workers' comp claims each year.

Causes of Workplace Back Pain
Although many things can contribute to back pain in the workplace, there are three main causes that occur most frequently.
  • Excessive lifting- Lifting objects that are too heavy or lifting them incorrectly often leads to back pain that can persist for long periods of time.
  • Repetitive motion- Those who perform the same tasks daily for extended periods of time are more prone to experiencing back pain. This is particularly true of individuals who work in a factory or production line and for office workers.
  • Improper posture- Improper posture also contributes to back pain and is primarily a problem for office workers who sit at a desk for most of the day and those who must stand for long periods.

Preventing Back Pain Injuries in the Workplace
No injury can be completely avoided, but employers can help employees prevent back pain injuries by training them on the proper techniques that can prevent back strain. Office staff and those who stand for long periods should be encouraged not to slouch, which causes muscle strain. When sitting, knees should be at a 90 degree angle to properly align the spine. If needed, a stool to support the feet can help achieve this.

Employers should provide back braces to those who are required to lift objects as part of their duties. Signs should also be posted in the workplace indicating the proper lifting technique and the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted by an individual. Finally, modify the workplace to eliminate repetitive tasks as much as possible. For example, a phone operator can use a headset to avoid repetitive motions on a switchboard.


Task Training: Tools, Ergonomics, Personnel, Safety

Bookmark and Share Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) direct employees to complete tasks correctly, the first time, safely. Effective SOPs are written and cover five areas of concern:

1. Task Protocol. How to complete the task. This instruction may be step-by-step or simply a quality standard. Be as specific as the results you seek.
2. Tools. Include the list of tools, equipment or machinery required to complete the task correctly. With this list, describe inspection procedures to assure tools are in good working order. For example, inspect screwdriver or chisel edges for any chipping or cracking. Chipped or cracked tools can splinter and injure the operator. Make sure machine or power tool guards are in place and functioning properly. Again, be specific.
3. Ergonomics. Will the planned work area force an employee into an unusual or uncomfortable posture? Is safety better served by removing a component and repairing it on a bench or fixing it in place? The weight of the component and ease of removal may be mitigating factors. Think through the process before beginning the task.
4. Personnel. Do you have enough labor assigned to a task to complete the operation safely? Do you have the correct skill leveled employees? If not, can you outsource the operation?
5. Safety. Walk through the process as a mental exercise to assure completeness of instruction. Add notes for proper personal protection equipment, and warnings against poor apparel choices, like loose clothes around spinning shafts. List safety requirements at the beginning and end of the SOP.

So why go through this process of SOPs? First, they set quality and safety standards. Second, most businesses, and consider construction, experience new processes or conditions on an ongoing basis. Things happen which require a quick response.

The thought process described above becomes second nature to employees faced with new tasks but no SOP. They learn how to plan a job as step one towards completion. Completing work correctly the first time is profitable and safe operations. Implementing these disciplines together as part of the planning stage helps your labor productivity.


Do You Need Business Interruption Insurance?

Bookmark and Share Business owners understand the importance of maintaining adequate insurance coverage to prevent large out-of-pockets costs in the event of a catastrophe. However, many don't consider the additional loss of income that they will suffer while a business is closed for repairs. Renovations and rebuilding due to a fire or damage from a natural disaster can result in significant loss of income while the business is shut down. Purchasing business interruption insurance can help replace this lost income.

Business Interruption Coverage Basics

A business interruption insurance policy provides monetary assistance in the case of lost revenue due to a business being forced to shut down. The reasons for business closure are typically limited to damage from a natural disaster, a fire or a limited number of other events included in the policy. Additionally, there is typically a 48 hour waiting period before the coverage begins after a claim is submitted. The business interruption policy will reimburse business owners for the following expenses:
  • Lost revenue that would have been earned had the business remained open. This amount is based on past financial records for the business.
  • Operating expenses such as rent, utilities or other expenses that continue even though the business is not currently operating.
The prices for business interruption coverage vary because they are based on the amount of risk that the individual business presents. For example, a law office presents a much lower risk of fire than a restaurant and thus would have lower premiums.

Which Businesses Benefit?

Each company must measure its risk of financial loss to determine if business interruption insurance would benefit them. In performing an evaluation, business owners should consider the following aspects of their day-to-day operations.
  • Does the business have other locations which could continue running and producing income while one was shut down?
  • Does each location have specific revenue-generating tasks that can't be performed by the other locations?
  • Does the business location or locations have specialized equipment or facilities that would take a significant amount of time to repair or service?


Off-Site Events Can Result in Workers' Comp Claims

Bookmark and Share When most employers think of workers' comp claims, they understandably focus mainly on situations and equipment within the workplace that may cause an injury to employees. However, many fail to consider that even some injuries that occur outside the workplace may still qualify as a workers' comp claim. While these off-site events bring many benefits, such as a morale boost, they bring risks to the employer as well.

Company-Sponsored Off-Site Functions
Company-sponsored, off-site functions serve a variety of purposes ranging from company league softball games and picnics which boost morale, to retreats aimed at discussing strategic initiatives. Many employers believe that if they state that the event is voluntary that it relieves them of any responsibility for injury, but that isn't the case. If the employee can prove that mandatory attendance at the event was implied, then their injures fall under workers' comp. Additionally, courts have ruled that such injuries are valid workers' comp claims even though they were not received while performing regular job duties.
To complicate matters even further, some employee claims may fall under workers' comp while others would not. For example, if the company appoints someone to organize an event, there is an implied expectation for them to attend. Thus, their injuries would be covered under workers' comp. However, other workers may not have felt they had to attend. Thus, their injuries would not fall under workers' comp.

Employee-Organized Events
Even events that are not specifically company sponsored but that are organized by the employees themselves can bring workers' comp woes. This could include a bowling night organized by one of the departments or even a going away party for another employee. In the case of employee-organized events, the business owner, executive leadership and the HR department should be very careful to not encourage attendance, which would change the event from a voluntary one to one that has implied mandatory attendance. Additionally, it's imperative that the company not provide any financial assistance for the event, even in renting the location or purchasing food or drinks.