chapter  28
12 Pages

Application of Ergonomics to the Low Back

Before an individual can accurately assess the workplace, there must be a basic understanding of the prin-

ciples of ergonomics, particularly with respect to how they relate to risk of injury. When evaluating the

risk of low back injury, it is important to start with a load-tolerance relationship, whether that is a phys-

ical, social, or psychological load. In other words, exposures in the workplace exert loads on the body,

which the body must respond to, and, at some point, a tolerance is exceeded causing the injury and

resulting in an injury (McGill, 1997). The most likely tolerance relating to low back injuries is structural

tolerance — loading on the spine. Another potential tolerance that may also contribute to risk assessment

is pain sensation, particularly with respect to psychosocial work factors (this will be discussed further

later). Based on this load-tolerance viewpoint, one must understand what factors contribute to the

loading on the spine structures and their corresponding tolerances. Once these factors are identified,

the proper assessment tools can be identified and developed to measure the levels of the specific risk

factors that would exceed the tolerances of the spine structures. Thus, assessment tools can only be

effective if they can accurately identify when tolerances are exceed either cumulatively or acutely

and, often times, must be multifactorial in nature.