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80% of workers have back pain
Back pain
Back pain afflicts all types of worker
Four out of five workers suffers from back pain and 20% take time off work because of it, according to a survey.

A poll of public service workers by the country's biggest union Unison found that ambulance workers were most at risk of developing problems with their back.

Other particularly vulnerable groups included care workers, nurses, porters and domestic staff.

Back injuries can be prevented and yet every year 300,000 people are forced to endure the agony

Dave Prentis, Deputy General Secretary, Unison
Many of the 1,000 people surveyed believed their working environment contributed to the risk of manual handling injury - inadequate staffing levels was commonly singled out as a major fact.

More than a third of respondents (38%) said there was insufficient space for safe handling procedures and over a quarter (26%) said there were slippery, cluttered or uneven floor surfaces in their workplace.

One in five of those questioned said they had been forced to take time off work in the past year because of back injuries.

Shocking results

Unison's deputy general secretary Dave Prentis said: "The results of this survey make shocking reading. Back injuries can be prevented and yet every year 300,000 people are forced to endure the agony.

"Any damage to the spine can make an everyday activity either impossible or extremely painful, and in many cases can lead to being incapacitated for weeks or even for life."

Lifting people was identified as one of the most common causes of back injury, affecting nurses and residential staff as well as other workers.

Half the accidents in nursing and residential homes are a direct result of manual handling.

Unison is calling for regulations to ensure that no-one ever has to lift a person unaided.

One homecare worker told the union: "I don't tell my employers about my back pain because we don't get any sick pay.

"I just look forward to the weekend and hope I will be fit enough for Monday morning. I don't know how much damage I am doing in the long term".

See also:

30 Jul 99 | Health
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