Methods for preventing back injuries in nursing staff were reviewed. Musculoskeletal disorders are among the ten leading occupational injury and illness problem areas in the U.S., and back injuries comprise almost half of workers' compensation claims in this problem area. The ratio of such claims relative to number of employed persons in the group was 22.1 for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants in a survey of four states. Ratios for licensed practical nurses and registered nurses were 13.0 and 5.1, respectively. There were few reports of effectiveness of specific intervention programs. One personnel program produced a lowered rate of high hour workers' compensation claims, while its associated back program did not significantly affect this but was well accepted by nurses. Another study suggested a reduction in back injury incidence after institution of intervention programs. Elements of a back injury control program were described. Specific components included the person, task and environment. Control programs were aimed at periods before work, during work and after work stopped due to a back injury. Aspects of such programs could include preplacement evaluation, employee training in safe work practices and patient handling skills, prompt treatment following an injury, rehabilitation and gradual return to work programs, ergonomics of tasks and modification where necessary, use of devices for reducing task stress, provision of adequate staffing and establishment of safe work environments to minimize the potential for injury. The author concludes that because each facility is unique, back injury control programs must be designed to fit the needs of the particular facility.