Teaching employees proper body mechanics may reduce the risk of back pain, although actually learning and practicing better body mechanics is difficult. Recent systematic reviews investigating workplace educational interventions showed that training alone (about proper body mechanics) has little impact on the incidence of back pain, back-related disability or absence from work compared to a control group that received either no training, minor advice only, professional education, exercise training or back belts.
Although these studies are discouraging, we know that to make long lasting changes typically requires knowledge, motivation and practice. A common problem with some educational interventions is that they are not revisited or refreshed and in many work situations new employees are not provided with extensive training. There is some research that suggests that face-to-face training of over 2 hours may be more effective than short training sessions. Looking at the frequency of your training and the methods you use, may help to give your employees a boost in changing these important preventative behaviours.
Staff absence is one of the biggest costs to employers - and back pain is the most frequent reason for staff taking sick leave. It is important for employers to work with their employee to support individuals to stay at work.
People with back pain were once told to stay off work until the pain had completely gone - but we now know this is unhelpful. Most cases of back pain will improve in around six weeks and during that time it is best for the employee to continue with activities, including work. Many workplace adjustments can be accomplished without large expenditures to time and money.
Last Updated: June 22, 2011
Reviewed by: Marc White PhD, Scientific & Executive Director, CIRPD