From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Assessing Back Risk With a Mouse Click

Quick answers to lifting safety are just a few mouse clicks away thanks to a new on-line interactive lift assessment program courtesy of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

Developed by Ohio State University’s Biodynamics Laboratory with a grant from the BWC, the interactive guidelines are intended to help provide fast guidance for designing lifting tasks and to help develop transitional work programs for workers with existing low back disorders.

The interactive process starts with a series of questions: condition of the worker’s back, the starting height of the object being lifted, the horizontal reach of the object and the trunk twisting angle. Once the criteria are submitted, the site returns a risk level associated with the lift. Simple visual explanations of each of the criteria make running through the program a breeze.

To develop the interactive system, BWC utilized a research project led by Dr. William Marras, director of OSU’s Biodynamics Laboratory, that looked at biomechanical trends in studies of test subjects, some with low back disorders and others with healthy backs. Participants in the studies were assessed by Marras and other researchers for spine loading during lifting tasks that focused on varying criteria, including the location of the object being lifted, the weight of the object and twisting of the trunk. The results of the project (awarded a Liberty Mutual Prize in 2003) were incorporated into the interactive lift assessment system.

For the BWC, the easy-to-use interactive system could prove to be invaluable. “Back injuries account for 25 percent of all workers’ compensation claims and about 40 percent of costs, not to mention the physical and emotional toll they take on injured workers and their families. We want to change that,” said BWC Administrator and CEO James Conrad in a written press statement.

The interactive guidelines, accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection, can be viewed on the BWC’s website ( by selecting “Ohio Employers,” “Safety Services,” and finally “Lifting Guidelines,” or directly at