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Are back injuries the number 1 workplace injury?

Not too long ago, it was very easy to find workers wearing industrial back belts in just about any profession that requires lifting. The iconic black suspenders and belt harness secured using Velcro was a stable of warehouse workers, airline baggage handlers and even auto mechanics everywhere throughout the country. Although medical science has now revealed that the benefits of wearing back belts may have been overrated, the reason why they became so popular in the first place is still important.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, back injuries represent the number one work related injury throughout the U.S. In fact, numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that American workers suffer over 1 million back injuries each year. It's also estimated that 25 percent of all workers' compensation claims are in some way related to back injuries. Perhaps not surprisingly, workers' compensation indemnity claims involving back injuries are estimated to cost American businesses billions of dollars annually.

Many employers have realized that wearing back belts alone often does little to prevent back injuries. Some have even sought to implement ergonomic designs into their workplaces to reduce the potential for back injuries. Ergonomics are essentially ways to design work so that it is easier for workers to perform. Simple things like raising shelf levels to normal heights, incorporating hydraulic lift tables and making individual boxes smaller so that they weigh less are some examples of preventative ergonomic steps.

Another way that employers can cut down on back injuries is by teaching and encouraging workers to use safer lifting techniques. Knowing proper lifting techniques like keeping the back straight and using your legs while lifting can go a long way toward reducing many of the stresses on the lower back that often result in injuries.

Unfortunately, work-related back injuries will still occur sometimes, despite the best laid ergonomic designs and the most careful observances of proper lifting techniques. The good news is that Maryland laws require that employers maintain workers' compensation coverage for injured workers.

If you need to file an injured worker's claim or appeal a denial of your benefits, there are two things you should know. Your Maryland workers' compensation attorney can assist you with filing your initial claim or representing you throughout your claims appeal process.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration-Fact Sheet: Back Injuries, "Back injuries - Nation's number one workplace safety problem," accessed April. 03, 2015

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