Do Back Belts Prevent Injury?
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) almost 20 percent of all injuries and illnesses that occur in the workplace are back injuries. To help reduce the amount of workplace back injuries, NIOSH recommends that companies implement ergonomics programs that focus on reducing hazards of lifting in both the work environment and work tasks.
One of the methods that companies are using to reduce lifting hazards is by recommending employees use industrial back belts. However, it's important to realize that back belts, even when used properly, do not totally and completely eliminate back injuries. Read on to find out more about back belts and preventing injuries.
Supposed Benefits of Back Belts
Back Belts manufacturers, some people who wear them, and even some doctors claim that back belts can do the following:
- Reduce the amount of injuries in the workplace
- Remind the user to lift with good form
- Restrict motion to force the wearer to use proper form
- Reduce harmful forces on the spine
- Increase abdominal forces on the spine which counters potentially harmful forces
- Stiffens the spine
NIOSH and Scientific Studies on Back Belts
Due to the increased use of back belts, NIOSH researchers turned to the scientific community to help determine if any scientific studies supported the use of back belts to reduce injuries. After reviewing the scientific studies, or lack thereof, on back belts, NIOSH concluded that there is not conclusive enough evidence to support, or refute, that back belts prevent injuries.
Why are the Studies on Back Belts Inconclusive?
Long story short, back belts haven't been used long enough in the workplace and as a result, there have been few published studies regarding the rate of injuries for people using back belts vs. people not using back belts.
Could the Use of Back Belts Actually Increase the Amount of Injuries?
Similar to there being inconclusive evidence that back belts reduce injuries, there's inconclusive evidence that they cause more injuries. There are however speculations that back belts can give workers a false sense of security and in turn, they lift objects they shouldn't be lifting.
How Should Companies View the Use of Back Belts?
Just like an individual shouldn't consider back belts the end-all-be-all of back safety, neither should companies. Instead, companies should focus on implementing a total and comprehensive ergonomics program. The program should aim to focus on both the work environment, specific tasks, identify hazards, implement worker training, and promote safe work practices.