Reality Alert: A healthy and athletic 20-year-old assistant teacher learned firsthand how important proper lifting technique is in a childcare setting. After struggling through lower back pain for several days, the woman scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor. An MRI would later reveal a disc herniation. A neurosurgeon determined surgery to remove the disc would be necessary after weeks of physical therapy failed to reduce the pain. Continued physical therapy and steroid injections were needed before the employee was completely free of pain.
Back Injury Statistics
According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, medical care and disability payments for back pain cost patients in the United States an estimated $15 billion every year. With more than six million cases reported annually, low back pain remains one of the most common complaints expressed to physicians. Unfortunately, daycares are a breeding ground for severe back, neck, and shoulder injuries. This list highlights the most common contributing factors to back injuries and how they might correspond with typical childcare job duties.
Common Childcare Job Duties
|Food preparation; lifting children
|Pushing or applying force
|Pushing large strollers
|Frequent bending and twisting
|Picking up children
|Awkward standing and posture
|Sitting on the ground or in kids’ chairs
|Sudden load bearing
|Reaching for a falling object or child
|Arts and crafts; changing diapers
Preventing Back Injuries in Childcare
As the table illustrates, several daycare job duties can cause or exacerbate a back, neck, or shoulder injury. These techniques, applicable to a wide variety of job tasks, can significantly reduce on-the-job injuries:
Avoid Heavy and Repetitive Lifting
Train employees in proper lifting techniques for occasions when bending cannot be avoided. Proper technique consists of getting as close to the object as possible, using the entire palm of the hand to grip the load, lifting gradually from the legs and abdominals, and maintaining a balanced stance with feet at shoulder width. Caregivers should be encouraged to only lift a child when absolutely necessary. Consider purchasing changing tables with built-in steps so children can climb up to the changing area. Also consider using smaller trash bags so employees do not have to lift heavy loads.
Minimize Bending and Twisting
Bending and twisting while carrying heavy loads places remarkable levels of added pressure on the lower back muscles. Train employees to lift objects slowly and always keep loads as close to the body as possible. Fewer injuries occur when weight is distributed evenly throughout the entire body. Childcare employees need to be especially careful when picking up children. Kids are often much heavier than they appear and most people use improper technique to lift a child.
Promote Exercise and Wellness
A strong core and healthy lifestyle have a major impact on an individual’s susceptibility to back injury. Statistics show that overweight individuals and smokers are far more likely to suffer a back injury on the job than their counterparts. Encourage your staff to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly.