Back belts are devices that can be worn to support the back. It was originally used in medical rehabilitation treatment. Athletes who lift weights have also worn leather belts. There are also “industrial back belts” in use. Although many different belts are available, the most popular kind is a thin, elastic belt worn around the lower back and occasionally secured with suspenders.

Why do individuals use back belts?

Theoretically, a back belt reduces stress on the spine, increases intra-abdominal pressure, stiffens the spine, and decreases lifting loads. A back belt advertisement states that it will act as a continual reminder to the user to avoid dangerous bends, awkward postures, and heavy loads, all of which contribute to the avoidance of workplace accidents.

Do back belts prevent injuries?

Back belts have become more popular as a means of preventing injury when lifting in recent years. Sometimes known as “back supports” or “abdominal belts,” are now worn by employees in a variety of professions, like airline baggage handlers, and warehouse workers. In the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) established the Back Belt Working Group to investigate and assess back belt information. Their overall results are as follows:

  • Personal safety equipment such as back belt should not be considered.
  • Back belts are not suggested for usage in work environments.

The NIOSH group’s concerns that led to such findings were as follows:

  • None of the research looked at could demonstrate that wearing a back belt substantially decreased pressure on the spine during a lift.
  • Back belts restrict movement and may impair muscle and tendon suppleness and elasticity, possibly leading to back pain.
  • Back belts might provide a false feeling of security, increasing the danger of carrying heavy weights.

With these suggestions in mind, the Ontario Ministry of Labour produced “Back Belts in Manual Material Handling,” which cautions users and prospective users of all types of back belts of the possible health concerns that using these devices may pose.

Is it possible that wearing a back belt increases the risk of injury?

There is no definite research on the benefit or detrimental consequences of wearing back belt at this time. It may be beneficial; however, there is also worry that they may be harmful to employees. As a consequence of the NIOSH analysis, the Institute is worried about the possible negative implications of a false feeling of security that may accompany the usage of a back belt.

Therefore, instead of depending on back belt, organizations should start implementing a complete ergonomics program to safeguard all employees. Redesigning the work environment and duties to limit the risks of lifting is the most effective strategy to avoid back injury. Training to recognize lifting dangers and use safe techniques and approaches should increase program efficacy.

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