An estimated one in three workers is unwilling to protect their own backs, even when help is available, an expert told delegates at The Safety Conference in Sydney on October 19.
Risk management consultant of Preventative Injury Planning Strategies, Pippa Wright, says many injuries are caused over time by poor posture or lifting techniques. Ms Wright said that while a program designed to reduce the back and neck injury rates in the healthcare sector had been successful, it was hampered by the attitudes of many of the workers it aimed to assist.
"We have piles of photos showing people who have become deformed after years of misusing their bodies and when we explain how workers can avoid hurting themselves, about two-thirds are keen to change their habits," Ms Wright said. "Of those, perhaps half actually stick to it."
"What has caught us off guard is the reluctance of employees to re-skill themselves, even if they concede that it will benefit them. About one in three takes a victim mentality and says they don't have time, it's too late for them or it's someone else's fault. I feel it comes down to complacency towards one’s own health."
Aside from workers' unwillingness to break bad postural habits, other impediments to reducing back and neck injuries included insufficient staffing and training time, facility design and inadequate equipment.
"Often, previous equipment purchases that were inappropriate mean it’s very difficult to convince a manager to purchase more when many dollars have been spent on equipment that sits and gathers dust because no one wants to or doesn’t like using it," Ms Wright said.
The challenge, Ms Wright says, for workers and employers alike, is enormous.
"How do we retrain or coach people on mass into good posture and effective movement to prevent accumulative damage?" she said. "Our movement patterns from the time of birth are predominantly self-taught. This means we learn to move in ways that stress our muscles without realising it. Ignorance, or a lack of understanding about where the joints are in our body and how they're coordinated for efficient movement, causes a lot of pain."