Back Injury Prevention: SAFE LIFTING TIPS
Back injuries are the second-most common reason for employees to miss work, second only to the common cold. About 70% – 80% of workers will have some type of back injury severe enough to miss work at some point in their working lifetimes.
There are several steps employers and employees can take to minimize back injuries when lifting and moving objects:
- Employers and supervisors can ensure that appropriate mechanical lifting devices are on site and easy to access where they are likely to be needed. These tools range from dollies and hand trucks to forklifts and winches.
- Whenever possible, arrange your work areas to minimize the amount of heavy lifting required.
- Before any substantial lifting activity always warm up, using moderate stretching exercises. Gentle stretches held for 10 to 15 seconds are best, so you’re not causing additional injury.
- Plan the lift. Consider the weight and bulk of the object, how far you must carry it and your route of travel. When you approach an object, first try to get an idea of how heavy it may be by moving it with your foot or cautiously lifting up one end. If the object is too heavy to lift easily, seek additional help or use a mechanical lifting device such as a forklift, hand truck or winch.
- Lift objects in the body’s “power zone,” the area between your mid-thigh and mid-chest (versus located on the floor or above your shoulders). Avoid lifting objects outside this zone. Use your best judgment when lifting heavy objects. Do not attempt to lift an object that exceeds your strength, and use extreme caution when lifting objects 50 lbs. or heavier.
- Grasping and carrying devices can be helpful when lifting.
- Stand close to the object that you are lifting (and be sure that your fingers and toes are clear before setting it down).
- Lift using your legs and not your back. Get as close to the item as possible, splay your toes outward and bend with your back as straight as possible. Keep your chin up to help keep your back straight.
- Lift slowly and smoothly.
- Instead of lifting heavy objects that are on the floor, move them by pushing or pulling whenever possible – pushing is always preferable to pulling.
- Avoid twisting. Always turn the whole body as one unit when changing direction while carrying a heavy object.
- Carry objects close to your body.
- Wear sturdy, well-fitting and appropriate footwear for your job.
- Maintaining good physical conditioning, especially core strength and a healthy body weight, can make you less vulnerable to lifting injuries.