By Ann Hall, Ergonomist
Kids carrying backpacks? Check out these Ergonomic Tips:
Check their backpack every once in a while. In fact, if it feels pretty heavy, put it on a scale. If the weight is too much, find things to take out. Perhaps they don’t need to bring home every book, every day or they have a lot of clutter items that are just adding weight.
If they wear a backpack, make sure it fits them. Try on backpacks and make sure you have a good fit. Children should have backpacks designed for smaller frames and young adults should have backpacks designed for them. If you know that you have body dimensions such as a short torso, keep that in mind when purchasing.
Ideally the heaviest part of the load will be tight and close to the body, not drooping way down. Strive to have the bulk of the bag between the shoulders and the hips. Avoid letting the back pack hang more than 2-4 inches below the waist. The straps should always fit snugly to keep the bag close against the body and reduce swaying.
A bag with compartments is great, not just for organization, but it helps control the shifting of items in the backpack which can make the load become unbalanced. Best practice is to use the compartments to help distribute the load within the backpack. Make sure when you do this that you try to spread things out evenly, between the left and right side, and again heaviest items towards the back of the pack (side closest to the body).
Make sure the backpack has good straps, they are adjusted to fit the child and that the kids use both straps. Straps help absorb some of the load. Wide, padded shoulder straps help reduce the stress on the body. Be sure to readjust the straps to accommodate either heavier or lighter clothing during season changes.
Bags that you sling over one shoulder increase strain on one side of the body. Use double strapped bags that place a strap over each shoulder, not just one. Better yet, look for a back pack with both waist and chest straps too. Waist straps help to distribute the weight load and can reduce pressure in the shoulders. A chest strap helps keep the shoulder straps stable and reduces shifting of the load.
Coach them on proper use. Even if you have the perfect bag for your child, it is not a guarantee that they will use it the way you intended. Give them a little coaching when you see them over-stuffing the bag or carrying the bag using only one of the straps.