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Back belts: do they prevent injury?

Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-127, 1994 Oct; :1-12
The purpose of this pamphlet was to provide the worker with information concerning the usefulness and potential hazards of using back belts while involved in physical activities so that the worker can make an informed decision for himself. Workers currently using back belts for added support include grocery store clerks, airline baggage handlers, and warehouse workers. Due to limitations of currently available studies on the subject, NIOSH has indicated that it is not possible to state whether or not the belts help prevent injury. Claims that the use of such belts reduces internal forces on the spine during forceful exertions of the back, increases intra abdominal pressure to counter the forces on the spine, stiffens the spine which may decrease forces on the spine, restricts bending motions, reminds the wearer to lift properly, and reduces injuries in certain workplaces have not been proven. There are also no definitive studies available which indicate that the use of such a belt may increase the potential for back injury. If workers believe that they can lift more because they are wearing a belt, this is a case where additional damage can be done. NIOSH urges companies, rather than relying on the use of belt supports, to increase the knowledge and awareness of their workforce to the hazards of lifting and to proper ergonomic principles.
Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Back-injuries; Personal-protective-equipment; Ergonomics; Manual-materials-handling; Manual-lifting; Biomechanics; Retail-workers
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DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-127
NIOSH Division
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division