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Back belts

Overview

Back belts (for example, weightlifting or lumbar support belts) should not generally be used to prevent back injuries in the workplace.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development does not recommend back belts as personal protective equipment for workers who perform manual material handling, such as lifting or moving.

There is no evidence they reduce the load on the back when manually handling materials. However, there is evidence that job design (workplace changes based on ergonomics principles) reduces the load on the back and helps prevent back injuries.

Note: our focus is on the prevention of injuries, so this guideline does not address the use of back belts as medical treatment for rehabilitation of back injury or back pain.

Health risks

There is evidence that workers who wear back belts may experience harmful health risks, including the following:

Increased intra-abdominal pressure

Increased intra-abdominal pressure can cause an increase in cardiovascular stress.

Workers with cardiovascular disease should not wear back belts. It should be noted that it’s not always known if someone has cardiovascular disease.

Loss of strength in the abdominal muscles

This can be caused by long-term, habitual use of back belts. It may lead to back injuries when the worker is not wearing the back belt.

Some evidence suggests that workers who stop wearing a back belt after a period of wearing one are at greater risk of injury.

Other risks

There is an increased risk of injury due to handling materials beyond one’s physical capabilities because of a false sense of security while wearing the back belt.

Workers may also experience excessive heat under the back belt, and pressure or pinching on the ribs.

Guidelines

The evidence on back belts suggests they do not offer benefits in reducing occupational injury rates or absenteeism.

The use of back belts will not prevent injuries and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development does not consider back belts to be personal protective equipment.

The best way to prevent back injuries is to follow accepted ergonomics principles in designing jobs, tools and work environments.

Related

Read CRE-MSD’s musculoskeletal disorder prevention guideline for Ontario

Information on ergonomics in the workplace

Updated: May 31, 2022
Published: August 12, 2021