Back belts have become a staple in the workplace, especially where heavy lifting is required. Starting as rehabilitative tools following back injuries, back belts quickly evolved into exercise equipment for weight lifters. Today in California and across the country, back belts are used to prevent workplace injuries. Many question whether they are effective.
In theory, wearing a belt while lifting decreases pressure on the spine and restricts motions that could cause injury. Back injuries account for almost 20 percent of workplace injuries, especially among workers who do strenuous lifting such as baggage handlers, grocery store clerks and warehouse workers. However, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the use of back belts has never been proven to prevent back injury.
In fact, NIOSH warns workers that relying on back belts may actually entice them to lift more than they would without the belt, making them more susceptible to spinal damage. Additionally, NIOSH urges companies in California and beyond to focus more on ergonomics programs, which train workers how to lift properly to reduce the likelihood of injury. Reducing the weight load for workers, eliminating the necessity for twisting as one lifts and redesigning tasks for maximum safety can be more effective for all workers than simply wearing a belt.
Back injuries are common, and they can be painful enough to prevent an employee from performing his or her job. Those who suffer from workplace injuries to the back are eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Consulting an attorney for advice on obtaining the maximum allowable benefits may benefit a worker who is dealing with a painful injury.
Source: cdc.gov, "BACK BELTS--Do They Prevent Injury?", Accessed on Feb. 3, 2017