One of the biggest causes of workplace injury is the lifting of heavy objects. Back, neck and shoulder injuries from improper lifting techniques are extremely common and account for over 35 percent of all injures resulting in lost work time, according to OSHA. Employees who are properly trained in the correct practices for lifting they are far less likely to suffer injury, and employers who train their workers in such methods reduce liability significantly.
Each Load is Different
When approaching an object for lifting, it is important to remember that every load is unique and may require a different approach. While there are general guidelines in place, it is inaccurate, for example, to say that the back should never be used to lift. It all depends on how frequent the task will be and the size and shape of the object.
When approaching a lift, plan the job based on ergonomics, the route you must take while carrying and the equipment, services and utilities available to help you with the task.
Use Your Arms and Legs
While each load is different and some loads may require the use of the back, in general it is best to use your legs and arms to lift. Your legs provide the best support for raising an object and are much better at handling the strain of elevating a load than your back is.
Crouch down, keep your back straight, use your arms to support the load and lift using your leg muscles. In this manner you will be much less likely to strain or injure your back.
Use Your Power Zone
Everyone has a “power zone,” which is located between mid-chest and mid-thigh and close to the body. When lifting, hold objects in this zone for maximum comfort and the least effort. While it may seem convenient to throw an object over your shoulder for carrying, this can result in strain and injury.
If the item you are lifting has handholds, use them! These are in place to help you lift the item and reduce your risk of injury.
Push or Pull?
In general, it is better to push an item to pull it. While pulling may feel easier, pushing allows you to use more muscle groups and add more force into the task. Pulling, in the end, creates a higher risk for injury or muscle strain. Plus, being able to see where you are going by pushing an object greatly reducing the risk of injury.
Back braces, belts and other safety support equipment are vital for reducing the potential risk of injury. Workers should always be trained in the proper use of such equipment, and it should be available at all times when lifting is to be done. Simply using a support belt can drastically lower the incidents of workplace injury.
Using proper lifting techniques and support can go a long way in lowering the incidents of injury at the workplace. This will result in better productivity, higher profitability and less liability for the employer in the form of insurance and workers comp claims. If you have questions about injury and liability insurance, look at our general liability page and then give us a call for more information.