Despite a litany of possible safety issues, the leading cause of workplace injury is unsafe lifting and such injuries can be particularly troubling because it can be difficult to treat.
As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 36 percent of injuries involving missed workdays were the result of shoulder and back injuries. Lifting something improperly can cause a back to spasm, which is extremely painful. In some cases, however, there is little that can be done to fix the problem quickly and doctors often prescribe rest and pain killers, which can cause employees to miss a lot of work.
An item doesn’t have to be a particularly heavy object to cause serious injuries, although the weight of an item can certainly increase the risk.
Training employees to use smart lifting practices will result in them less likely to suffer from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist injuries, elbow injuries, spinal injuries and other injuries caused by lifting heavy, awkward objects.
Prevention is the optimal way to deal with lifting-related back injuries. Establishing a standard set of rules regarding lifting will keep your employees safer and can help dramatically reduce the number of such injuries. Informing and educating your employees about the real risks of unsafe lifting also will encourage employees to give a situation a second thought, rather then make an unwise decisions.
Safe lifting techniques should be stressed by all workplaces, but are commonly overlooked. Most people just want to finish the job quickly, even if that means moving heavy objects in unsafe ways.
A few ways to help encourage safe lifting techniques may be to start each day off with a stretching program to help acclimate the body or to post signage around your location reminding your employees to lift safely. Even if your employees don’t lift heavy objects often at work, they are still susceptible to an injury, and can strain their back lifting something as light as a screwdriver if not careful.
With proper safety training and the use of these safe lifting techniques, employees should be able to greatly reduce the risk of back and lifting injuries.
•Before lifting, assess what it is you are lifting and where it is going. Recognize how heavy the object is and determine if you can lift it by yourself. Never hesitate to ask for help if it is too heavy.
•Make sure to check the pathway you are taking to your final destination. There should not be any trip hazards or debris in your path.
•To safely lift the object, get as close to the object as possible. This will create more leverage for you and less strain on your muscles.
•Next, position your feet shoulder-width apart and angle one foot slightly forward for better balance.
•When you bend down for the object, keep your back straight and use your legs and hips to lower yourself to the object. Never bend at the waist because this will cause immediate strain on your lower back.
•As you bend down to pick up the object, use the hand of the leg that is angled forward and place it on the side of the object furthest from you.
•After you have a firm, comfortable grip, tighten your core and focus on keeping a straight back as you lift the object with your legs and hips. Looking forward will help keep your back straight and extend your legs. Always remember to keep the object close to your body.
The following are some ways you, as an employer, can reduce the number of accidents that occur at your location because of lifting:
- Provide Lifting Gear – When lifting use lifting straps, which provide increased control and support when lifting large or oddly shaped objects.
- Proper Lifting Techniques – Training employees on how they should lift to minimize the risk of injury is essential. Employees should know they need to lift with their legs and not their backs. Show a training DVD such as Back Injury Safety to provide tips and lifting techniques to help avoid back injuries.
- Clearly Label the Weight of Items – If something is going to be lifted, it should be clearly marked with how much it weighs. An industrial label maker can be a great tool to help label weights. Labeling weights will help an employee decide whether to lift it on their own, get help or even use a dolly or mechanical lifting machine.
- Have Dollies Available – Dollies are an excellent way to move most objects around without putting employees at risk. This is perfect for boxes or many other common items. By putting the loading tray under the items and tilting the dolly back, employees can lift extremely heavy items with minimal risk.
- Require Proper Lifting Decisions – Make sure everyone in the facility knows that items over a certain weight require two or more people to lift them, or require the use of a dolly or forklift. Even if someone thinks they can lift a heavy item on their own, it is best not to take the chance. Having a policy that requires people to take safety seriously can often prevent a lot of workplace injuries.