Back Pain? Kick It to the Kerb.

As every Highways Maintenance Operative is only too aware, some elements of the role are as inevitable as traffic jams. Over the course of a typical day, operatives carry out a number of tasks which are integral to the role. However, the very nature of many activities for the industry means that many Highways staff share a single work-related issue – back pain.

The blight of Highways Maintenance work

Across the UK, back pain is thought to be the leading cause of sickness and absence from work. It tends to be taken for granted somewhat due to its frequency across most non-sedentary roles.

However, working in Highways Maintenance means that back issues are more prevalent in this sector than in the majority of others. This is because of the manual element of the job, which sees operatives undertaking at least one of these tasks, every single day:

  • Operating, maintaining and transporting construction equipment
  • Removing unsafe obstacles such as rocks and fixing guardrails
  • Installing a variety of specialist surface treatments to improve safety and provide decorative finishes
  • Driving machinery to sweep debris from surfaces and structures
  • Spreading sand, asphalt, gravel and clay to build and maintain surfaces
  • Cleaning and repairing drainage systems, bridges, tunnels and other structures
  • Installing and repairing guardrails, road lighting and other features
  • Performing roadside landscaping including clearing weeds and trimming trees.

All of the above makes it much more likely for operatives to suffer with aches, pains, pulls and strains in the lower back region, particularly when the tasks are repetitive or undertaken in restricted or awkward working environments. That’s why operatives need quality tools and equipment to minimise the impact of manual working, and prevent injury from repetitive movements.

Take back lumbar wellbeing

It’s not all doom and gloom for our customers in the Highways sector, however. The positive side to back pain is that employers recognise the prevalence in the industry, and operatives know the correct way to undertake tasks to keep lumbar injury at a minimum. Even should back pain strike, there are a few general tips which can assist in expediting recovery times and getting operatives back on the road in as short a time as possible.

Rest following any injury which causes back pain, and use over-the-counter painkillers to reduce inflammation and minimise discomfort. Both heat and cold can be effective in assisting muscles to relax and recover, giving your back the chance to repair itself. Osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors are all adept in gentle manipulation to free up locked muscles, and once the back starts to heal, gentle exercise will assist recovery even further.

As with any pain or injury caused at work, follow your staff policy and engage with a GP if the issue doesn’t resolve swiftly. For more information about how to avoid back pain on the job, the Health & Safety Executive has a great overview.