Are back belts effective in preventing worker injuries?

Using Digital Blood Pressure GaugeBack injuries sustained in the workplace can have a negative impact on not only work life, but also personal life. Unfortunately, back injuries are among the most common work-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, back injuries account for nearly 20 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. Furthermore, as any Chicago work injury lawyer knows, the total cost of workplace back injuries is estimated to be as high as $50 billion per year.

Back injuries are especially common in industries requiring workers to lift, move or otherwise sustain awkward positions. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that construction and manufacturing industries are among those in which the risk of back injuries is high. However, it is difficult for any worker to avoid the risk of back injury. Even office workers, operating in far more benign environments, are exposed to back injuries.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has concluded that ergonomics programs are the most effective way to prevent back injuries in the workplace. Specifically, NIOSH researchers believe that redesigning the work environment and work tasks is key to reducing this hazard. However, as a Chicago work injury lawyer is aware, employers are increasingly turning to industrial back belts instead.

What are back belts?

Back belts, which are also called support belts or abdominal belts, are used in a variety of settings. Injured individuals wear these devices, which are worn around the waist, during rehabilitation. Weight lifters, especially those performing lower-body lifts, are also known to use some form of back belt. The motivation for wearing a back belt is that doing so is believed to reduce forces on the spine, which should theoretically reduce back injuries.

Do they work?

In order to answer the question of back belts’ effectiveness in the workplace, NIOSH researchers sought scientific evidence that they work. Specifically, these researchers systematically reviewed published peer-reviewed scientific literature on back belts. Following the review, NIOSH found no empirical evidence that using a back belt in the workplace will reduce the risk of sustaining a back injury.

This does not mean that back belts may not be helpful. However, one takeaway from the review might be that they should not be relied on. Returning to an earlier point, there may be no substitute for a safe work environment and safe work tasks.

Despite a workers’ best efforts at safe practices, back injuries may still happen. In these cases, Illinois workers may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation. For this reason, workers who have sustained back injuries in the workplace may wish to consult with a Chicago work injury lawyer.