Practice Backpack Safety
National School Backpack Awareness Day is observed every year on the third Wednesday of September. The awareness day was launched by The American Occupational Therapy Association in 2001 with the goal of encouraging proper backpack use by students. Improper use of backpacks can result in back pain, injuries, and bad posture as well as circulatory and other health issues. This is a great opportunity – now that school is in full swing in the US – to review proper backpack use with the students in you life. Here are some basic tips.
- Always us both of the straps on a backpack. Slinging a backpack on just one shoulder can lead to pain, injury and bad posture. If the backpack has waist and chest straps, use those too. The waist and chest straps help to distribute the weight of the pack and keep it stable on the body. Well padded straps help to avoid cutting off circulation to the arms.
- Ensure that the backpack’s size is appropriate for the child. Straps should be adjusted so the pack fits snugly against the child’s back and the pack should be worn high on the back (one or two inches above the hips).
- A packed backpack should weigh no more than 10% of the child’s body weight. Heaviest items should be packed closest to the back of the pack (near the child’s back) with lighter items toward the front. Check periodically to ensure only essential items are in the backpack.
- Backpacks should be picked up and put on by bending and lifting with the knees, not the back. If the child is having trouble lifting and putting on the backpack, it is likely too heavy.
Signs of Improper Use
- Difficulty putting on and taking off the backpack
- Pain while wearing the backpack
- Numbness or tingling in the arms while wearing the backpack
- Red marks on the shoulders where the backpack straps rest
- Slouching or bad posture while wearing the backpack
The American Occupational Therapy Association has made a comprehensive checklist available for download. You can find it here.
The modern backpack was invented by Gerry Outdoors in 1938 as a recreational tool for hiking and camping. In 1968 JanSport went into business making lightweight nylon backpacks which made them popular with students around the country. Today JanSport is the largest backpack maker in the world.