The American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA’s) National School Backpack Safety Awareness Day is always the 3rd Wednesday of each September. This National day is to help students learn and participate in backpack safety. Common tips for backpack safety are easy to follow and quick to implement. These tips are appropriate for children and adults.
Tips for safe backpack use:
- How to pack it:
- Just like when you take a backpacking trip, the key to safe loads is distribution! The heaviest items (books, notebooks, ect.) should be packed in the compartments closest to your back. The lighter items should then be distributed throughout the front compartments of your backpack.
- How to wear it:
- Always wear a backpack with both straps! Wearing the backpack on one shoulder distributes weight to one side, and then we tend to compensate by leaning the other way. The bottom of the backpack should fit just right above your waist, sitting snugly against your back. This snug fit will help the backpack from swinging back and forth while walking.
- Picking it up:
- How you lift the backpack is just as important as wearing it. Just like when we lift other objects, bend at your knees to pick up the backpack. This will save your back!
- How much weight to carry:
- A backpack should weight less than 20% of the body weight. For a 40 lb child, that is 8 pounds (or less).
All these tips are good to apply to purses, luggage, briefcases, and gym bags, as well! In the clinic we often see patients who have overloaded their bags. If you are regularly carrying a very heavy or very full bag, consider reassessing if you need all the items. Over stuffing is just as dangerous as incorrectly packing your bag or using poor body mechanics. Check out the links below for more information on school backpack safety awareness!