The following is an excerpt from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here. 
Back strain and pain account for 100 million lost work days and billions of dollars each year. Back injuries are second only to the common cold for lost time on the job. Many injuries could be avoided if only employees were aware of how to protect their backs. The spine is not perfectly straight. It has three curves: one at the neck, one at the middle of the back, and one at the lower back. Keeping these three curves in their natural alignment is the key to keeping the back healthy. Back injuries occur because of years of abusing the back until it is so weak and stressed that one wrong move will finally cause something to snap. Causes of back injuries include incorrect lifting, consistently poor posture, and twisting or overreaching.
Avoiding back injury and the resulting pain can be as easy as making a few simple lifestyle changes. Learn how to use your body correctly. Think about every move you make before you make it. Good body mechanics will help:
- Evaluate the item to be lifted by using the team approach and ask for assistance.
- Use your thighs rather than your back for lifting. Keep the head up and trunk tall and lift steadily with the legs.
- Squat down instead of bending at the waist.
- Push loads instead of pulling them.
- Do not twist the body when carrying a heavy load.