Did you know that 80 per cent of work-related back injuries are a result of manual materials handling (MMH)? Lifting is common in many workplaces, but back problems shouldn’t be.

What starts out as a minor ache or strain can progress into a much more serious problem. While some individuals may be more susceptible to encountering back problems, the reality is that many work-related back injuries can be entirely avoided through proper training and safe workplace practice.

Bad lifting techniques + repetition = risk

Back injuries occur most commonly when a worker is lifting heavy materials, repetitively over an extended period of time.

Who’s at risk?

Generally, workers in the trades, transport, mechanic and equipment operations have the highest risk of enduring a back injury. It should be noted that younger, inexperienced workers also have higher chances of getting hurt – statistically, they are more likely to take risks and less likely to have the on-the-job practice that allows workers to make better judgement calls. Workers over 45 are much less likely to experience a work-related injury.


Education is essential. Each worker should be trained to answer:

  • How do I properly handle the materials I’m working with?
  • How do I assess hazards in my work environment?
  • What is the maximum weight I can carry?
  • When do I rely on additional resources for help, and what are they?

Setting reasonable limits is an important way to avoid back injuries. When in doubt, use a mechanical handling system such as a pallet truck or forklift. Even using trollies can significantly reduce the strain on one’s back; pushing will always be much easier on the body than pulling or lifting.

Know your limits

  • Take your time – injuries are more common when a worker is rushed to finish a job
  • Don’t challenge yourself
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Ignoring back problems may only make them worse
  • Don’t manage back injury symptoms on your own – seek professional help

More information

Looking for more resources on training your workers on back injury prevention? Take part in our online course. Preventing Back Injury explains how the back works, the most common types of injuries, risk factors that increase your chances of a back injuries and ways to prevent them, as well as the steps to take if a back injury does occur.

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Julie McFater

Director of Marketing

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