Article By: Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia

Back injuries are the number one type of workplace injury in Nova Scotia. And they are 100 per cent avoidable.
Over 2,000 Nova Scotians suffer a serious back injury on the job every year, accounting for 30 per cent of all lost time injuries and costing millions annually. Every single back injury can be avoided.
Back injuries are part of an injury category called musculoskeletal injuries, or injuries that involve the muscles and the skeleton – the parts of the body that make us move. Other kinds of musculoskeletal injuries are muscle strains, joint inflammation, tendonitis, ligament sprains, pinched nerves, carpal tunnel syndrome or rotator cuff syndrome.
Musculoskeletal injuries, or sprains and strains, are the most common type of workplace injury in Nova Scotia. And they’re caused by hazards associated with the way work is designed and carried out.
Sprains and strains hazards involve the effect some working tasks have on the body, usually over long periods of time.

Hazards include:

  • Awkward body posture, or working in the same position for long periods
  • High body force, such as lifting or carrying heavy loads
  • High task repetition for long periods

Right now, across Nova Scotia, workers are doing work that doesn’t fit. Work tables are too high or too low, tools are not easily accessible, the work involves considerable heavy lifting, stretching or twisting or any number of other examples.
Your employees may not say anything at first, but their work may hurt, showing up as stiff backs, sore wrists or shoulder pain. Let unaddressed, these aches and pains at the end of a shift may develop into injuries.
Listen to your workforce. Encourage early reporting of symptoms so the job set-up can be improved before injury develops. A pro-active approach will prevent injury and reduce the severity of injuries that may occur.
Regardless of whether you work for a multi-national company or small business, you can benefit from using ergonomic design. Ergonomics is about designing for human use. It allows quality work to be completed safely and easily by fitting the job to the worker.
People who think in terms of ergonomics ask themselves five simple questions every time they purchase a piece of equipment, every time they build or modify a workspace or facility, every time they think about how a job will be done, and every time they create a new position.

The 5 W’s of ergonomics include:

  1. What are the task requirements?
  2. Who is doing the work?
  3. Where is the work being done?
  4. Worst-case scenario: what is it?
  5. Whoops! What is the consequence of human error?

Ergonomics is a way of thinking about workplace design that maximizes the safety and efficiency of the workplace by getting it right the first time.
Thinking ergonomically not only reduces injury, but prevents it from happening. It also improves the job, allowing quality work to be completed safely and comfortably.
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For more information on preventing sprains, strains and back injuries, visit WorkSafeForLife