In today’s workforce, many jobs place workers at a higher risk for a back injury. The list is pretty extensive and may surprise you! Individuals that have suffered a neck or back injury at work know the cost goes beyond lost wages. The impact of these injuries on employees, employers, and the economy is staggering.
In a report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million cases of non-fatal occupational injuries and in 2018. Of these cases, more than 50% lost time from work, transferred to a different job, or restricted work activity. Not all of these cases were spine-related injuries. However, 880,000 cases were back pain-related injuries.
The World Health Organization’s International Labour Office says that the problem is global.
Musculoskeletal diseases are a very common part of 270 million non-fatal work/job accidents where employees missed at least 3 workdays.
Occupational safety experts gather all kinds of information that they factor. This includes job requirements, work environment, and work station set up. In compiling the list of risky occupations, here are some of the criteria:
- Heavy physical work
- Forceful lifting movements
- Awkward work postures
- Whole-body vibration
- Static work postures like standing/sitting but never changing position compounds the risks to workers.
Two occupations that lead the list of jobs placing workers at the highest risk are construction and nurses/nursing home workers. Workers in both of these jobs tend to share the under-reporting of work-related injuries. This happens as the employees fear they will lose their job and cannot afford to take any time off.
Employees at a construction site are repeatedly lifting, bending, carrying, pulling, and tugging. These repetitive movements lead to overuse injuries and back strain/sprains are a common part of this. More than 30% of workers have to miss job time. Those that must climb ladders or work on scaffolds have a greater risk of falling. This is where some serious spinal injuries can occur, causing disability and sometimes being fatal.
Nursing homes and employment opportunities are growing from elderly population growth. These workers are at high risk for back pain and spine injury. This comes from transferring patients’ from their beds, bathtub, and bathroom facilities. All these actions require lifting, carrying, holding, pulling, pushing, and turning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nearly all back and shoulder injuries are the result of moving patients.
This is another job that requires lifting, along with using forceful movements, bending, twisting, carrying, and placing the body in awkward positions. Sometimes these workers have to drive a truck or an industrial vehicle that creates whole-body vibration. Continual exposure to vibration can cause backache and soreness that can lead to lost work time.
Dentists and Surgeons
Both of these professions involve prolonged standing, stooping, bending, and awkward body positioning. Not to mention the mental strain that diverts the doctor’s attention to proper posture and body mechanics that results in injury and pain.
The American Chiropractic Association puts landscapers in the top 10 list of jobs that cause back pain. This job puts these workers at a greater risk for cumulative trauma disorders. All the tasks that a landscaper has to do that include hedge trimming, tree pruning, and planting. These actions/movements involve lifting, reaching, bending, and stooping. This is a perfect set up for an overuse back injury.
Hand tools that get used over and over can cause painful conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome. Thoracic outlet syndrome is when the nerves and blood vessels become compressed between the neck and shoulder.
Grocery and retail store cashiers require workers to stand in one place for a long time. This along with the repetitive motions of scanning, typing, opening, closing combined with bagging and lifting bags over and over can cause neck, shoulder, back, leg and foot pain. Over half of checkout workers complain of back pain.
Other High-Risk Jobs
- Airline crews meaning pilots, baggage handlers,
- Factory workers
- Cab drivers
- Cable and telephone line installers
- Carpet installers/cleaners
- Dry cleaners
- Medical technicians
- Maintenance workers
- Automotive technicians
- Office personnel
- Professional athletes
Job Injury Prevention
We may not be able to instantly change our occupation, but there are steps to help prevent neck and back injuries. The key is workplace ergonomics and safety. Be proactive to help reduce workplace risk for neck and back injury and share what you learn with co-workers.
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Injuries that are caused by repetitive movements often develop gradually. This is the time when the symptoms are mild and come and go, so the individual just works through it and doesn’t think about it. It’s not until the symptoms get very painful and debilitating that the individual realizes that something is wrong, and then they seek medical attention. Don’t wait, as soon as you feel a tingle, slight pinch, or a little soreness and you feel that it stems from your work’s repetitive movements, get in touch with a doctor or chiropractor before it becomes excruciating.