Back Pain in the Construction Industry

BackCare, an organization in the UK came up with the Back Pain Construction Initiative

The construction industry in the UK represents around 1.5 million workers. The costs for back pain among these workers are estimated on more than £1 billion (€~1.2 billion) per year in healthcare, disability benefits and lost productivity. Another fact about back pain in the construction industry in the UK: the construction companies are responsible for more than 25,000 new back injuries every year, and a growing proportion, between a third and half of construction workers over 50 now suffer chronic back pain. According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), manual handling (pulling, pushing, lifting and carrying) accounts for 38% of workplace accidents in all industries – most of which are back injuries.

Funds for training courses
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) was established 1964, collecting an annual levy from all construction employers to fund training courses. The CITB is the responsibility of the UK Government’s Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The CITB’s levy-funded ‘Health, Safety and Environment Test’ only aims to ensure that “workers have a minimum level of health, safety and environmental awareness”. BackCare’s opinion is that not a “minimum” level of training is needed but a protocol that has proven to be effective. “Truly educative prevention is always the most effective and most cost-effective option, and we now have evidence of an effective protocol that combines physical skills training with behavioural change interventions at the organizational level to create profound and sustained reduction in manual handling incidents”, says Dr Adam Al-Kashi, Head of Research at BackCare. 

Manual handling training
Pristine Condition (PC) is a world leader in manual handling training. The training company was founded in 1996 by a former world weightlifting record holder and advisor to the Olympic committee, Davy Snowdon. The training protocol has proven to reduce manual handling accidents and injuries in the workplace by 88-100%. They worked together with the HSE as partners in the Estates Excellence programme, which aimed to see “Government and Business working together to make a difference”. The HSE is a non-departmental public body of the UK created in 1974. It is responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks in England, Wales and Scotland.

Collaboration for new campaign
BackCare initiated collaboration with PC in 2012 for the launch of a new campaign, aimed at reducing the impact of back pain in the construction industry. Bottom lines are:

  • CITB delivers optional training programmes, and yet back pain in the UK construction industry costs $1 billion per year and destroys thousands of human lives.
  • A Proven effective training protocol must be adopted by the CITB and enforced by the HSE as mandatory for all construction companies. 
  • True educative prevention has proven return on investment, therefore it does not matter whether this is paid for by levy or Government funding. 

For more information on back pain in the construction industry and for the vision for the immediate future, please have a look on the website of the BackCare Construction Initiative

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