Millions of American employees carry around heavy bags or briefcases as a work-related necessity. Whether these bags contain laptops, paperwork, equipment or some combination of heavy objects, their weight often poses a health hazard for workers. Heavy bag carrying can lead to joint injuries, muscle tissue damage, stiffness, pain, strain and misalignment.
In essence, carrying a heavy, unbalanced load on a regular basis can lead to repetitive stress injuries to the shoulders, neck and back. As a result, it is critical that workers who regularly carry heavy bags take precautions to ensure that their loads are properly balanced and supported. In addition, it is advisable that workers pack lighter whenever possible to relieve strain.
Ideally, bags should be worn on an individual’s back with proper strap support. Wearing a bag on only one side of the body leads to posture imbalance and can cause dangerous amounts of pressure in the nerves on one side of the body. This kind of pressure can lead to conditions such as frozen shoulder, which is quite painful and can be fairly debilitating.
In addition, heavy bag carrying can exacerbate symptoms of pre-existing conditions like arthritis. Workers with health concerns should alert their employers if they require reasonable accommodations as to how their loads must be carried in order to prevent their health issues from worsening as a result of repetitive heavy lifting. Generally, employers are required to provide such reasonable accommodations and those who do not may often be held responsible under the law for harm that their inaction causes their employees.
Source: India Today, “Your bag could be a health hazard,” Nalini Ravichandran, June 25, 2013