It is estimated that approximately 25 pct of all injuries in the mining industry involve trauma to the back and that the cost of back injuries in coal mining alone approaches $20 million a year. However, the tremendous cost of these injuries is overshadowed by the human disability and suffering experienced not only by the affected miners but also by their families. Unfortunately, the underground coal mining environment presents some uncommon barriers to preventing back injuries. The restricted roof height of many low- seam coal mines (mines with seams < or = to 48 in) forces workers to adopt exceptionally stressful working postures during manual lifting activities, generally stooped or kneeling, which produce a considerable strain on the lower back. This may help to account for the high incidence of low-back pain in coal miners. The use of certain types of mechanical-assist devices is also made more difficult by the confined workspace of low-seam mines. In addition, poor illumination and slippery footing compound the problems associated with underground materials handling. The traditional approach to reducing the risk of back injuries has been to train miners to cope with the existing conditions. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this method has been relatively limited, and new approaches are needed. This U.S. Bureau of Mines article briefly describes methods that can be used to redesign hazardous materials- handling tasks to reduce the threat of injury to workers. The redesign strategies outlined here may be broadly applicable to many industrial hygiene settings.