Work-related back pain is a major cause of missed work days and disability. While strenuous jobs like construction work are most known for causing back pain, jobs that require being mostly stationary throughout the day can do just as much damage. Many cashiers find themselves suffering from back pain.
A cashier’s job generally requires long periods of standing, moving items, lifting and twisting. Each of these activities can cause strain to the muscles, ligaments, spinal discs and joints of the back, particularly the lower back.
There are two components to preventing and recovering from back pain caused by a cashier’s duties: 1) workplace ergonomics and 2) proper body mechanics.
Cash Register Ergonomics
An ergonomic workstation is designed with the needs of the human body in mind, limiting opportunities for strenuous actions like reaching and twisting. While extending your arm out to reach an item or twisting to view the display screen may not seem like strenuous activities, performing them over and over again throughout your shift causes cumulative stress that can lead to repetitive use injuries of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, neck or back. That is why the ergonomics of your workstation are so important.
The Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA) has a number of guidelines for cashier workstations. Some are designed to limit the amount of twisting you do; OSHA recommends using power conveyor belts that push items to the scanner and carry them away on the other side, placing display screens within view of the cashier from neutral posture and keeping the scanner and conveyor belts level to allow for sweeping motions across the scanner field. The guidelines also recommend ways to inhibit harmful reaching and bending practices, such as allowing toe space at the bottom of the register so that the cashier can stand closer to the workstation and making bagger stand height adjustable.
If your work as a cashier is causing back pain, review OSHA’s guidelines at http://www.osha.gov/ergonomics/guidelines/retailgrocery/retailgrocery.html#front. If any of them are not met at your workplace, notify your manager or supervisor. A healthy business relies on a healthy workforce.
Cashier Body Mechanics
Body mechanics involve how you move and use your body. Many people develop poor movement and posture habits due to simple lack of awareness. An important part of back pain prevention, at work and everywhere else, is taking note of these harmful behavior patterns and reversing them.
The main culprits of back pain are twisting, bending and reaching. Adjusting the way you perform certain tasks will limit the strain caused by these movements.
There are a couple of easy ways to limit the amount of twisting you put your back through. One is to notice how you scan items. Make sure to use two hands, passing the object from the right to the left rather than using one arm. If you have to lift an item from the belt to the scanner, use two hands. Even lightweight items can cause strain over time. Another way to limit twisting is to turn your whole body to look to one side rather than twisting at the neck or back.
When you bend over, always bend from the hips and keep your spine straight. These guidelines are particularly important when lifting heavy objects, but should not be overlooked when bending for any other reason.
One of the main reasons cashiers reach for items to scan is to maximize speed. Many grocery and retail stores pressure cashiers to get customers through the checkout as quickly as possible. The speed at which you work should never compromise your health. Using high-powered conveyor belts and sweepers that move items into the cashier’s reach are ways your employer can increase the speed of checkout without risking injury to cashiers.
Preventing back pain in cashiers requires an ergonomic workstation and an understanding of proper body mechanics. Review OSHA’s workplace safety guidelines and talk with your manager about ways to prevent back pain at your store.