Since about the mid-1990s, the wearing of industrial back belts has seen a dramatic increase in the US. However, in many ways, calling them back belts or back supports is a misnomer. A better and more accurate term would be abdominal belts. According to one study, back belts work by doing the following:
“By assisting the abdominal muscles and diaphragm in producing intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) within the abdominal cavity. This is thought to allow pressure on the upper body to be shifted from the spine to the trunk." 1
In other words, the back belt redirects the pressure and strain of lifting from the lower back to the trunk, helping to protect the back and prevent injury. Further, back belts are thought to help improve posture, so that workers lift items more correctly, using an upright or straight torso. This also puts less stress on the back when lifting.
Further, research has found wearing a back belt can benefit workers in ways they may not even realize. For instance:
- They serve as a reminder to workers to be careful, lift properly, and not strain the body.
- They can increase insulation and warmth; the body tends to be more flexible in such conditions.
- They help restrict movements, bending, and twisting that can result in injuries.
- They provide what is termed, “circumferential support” for the entire body. In other words, the worker feels more stable and more protected overall.
Proper Wearing of Back Belts
The wearing of back belts or back supports is not a cure-all. They help support the back and can offer some protection, but ultimately the worker must perform the lifting and moving of materials properly.
In order to provide this support most effectively, they must be selected and worn properly. The following are some suggestions to help accomplish this:
- Select the proper size; some belts have as many as four stays for added support
- The belt’s back panel should be seven to eight inches wide
- If the belt has suspenders, make sure they are comfortably placed over the head, neck, and shoulders.
- Center the belt on the lower back and grasp each end of the belt.
- Stretch the belt straight out and wrap around the body; secure using the Velcro closure material.
It's interesting. We always see weightlifters wearing belts to provide additional back support. They do so because they know that the belt can help give them greater stability, put less strain on the back, and help them lift properly. This is exactly how back belts are designed to function in the workplace. For more information back belts or any other products that promote worker safety, contact an Impact Products specialist.