According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 150,000 workers experience back injuries each year. One fourth of all workers compensation indemnity claims are a result of back injuries. Low back pain is one of the most common reason that people miss work, second only to the common cold. In America, we spend more than $100 billion annually in medical bills, disability and lost productivity at work from back injuries and illnesses. More importantly, this problem causes unnecessary discomfort and pain to workers which can have a devastating effect on their lifestyle and ability to work. A BLS survey shows that 75% of back injuries occurred while performing lifting.
Even if you don’t lift heavy objects often at work, you are still susceptible to an injury. You can strain your back lifting something as light as a screwdriver if you are not careful. Make sure to follow these simple steps to help avoid putting yourself in an unsafe position:
Get as close to the object as possible.
Use a wide stance with one foot forward and to the side of the object for good balance.
Keep your back straight, push your buttocks out, and use your legs and hips to lower yourself down to the object.
Slide the object as close to you as possible.
Put the hand (same side of your body as the forward foot) on the side of the object furthest from you.
Use this basic lifting technique for small objects when you can straddle the load and use a wide stance.
Put the other hand on the side of the object closest to you. Your hands should be on opposite corners.
Grasp the object firmly with both hands.
Prepare for the lift, tighten your core muscles, look forward and upward, keep a straight and strong back.
Lift slowly and follow your head and shoulders. Hold the load close to your body. Lift by extending your legs with your back straight, and breathe out as you lift.
Just as important as following safe lifting techniques, avoiding unsafe behavior can help you to avoid injury and to advise others on how to do the same. Here are a few things to avoid while lifting:
Never hold your breath while you lift an object. Exhaling out when lifting an object is the proper technique to use.
When carrying an object, do not bend or twist at the waist. If you need to turn, slowly turn with your feet.
Don’t use a partial grip on an object. Always use two hands!
Never obstruct your vision with an object you are carrying. Keep the object at mid-section level, from the mid-thigh to mid-chest. This is your “power zone.”
Never forget to wear your personal protective equipment, such as gloves for grip or shoulder pads to cushion the load.
By practicing these safe lifting techniques, and avoiding bad lifting habits, you can stay health and on the job. Since lifting injuries are so common, and detrimental to productivity, the importance of safe lifting techniques cannot be understated and should be treated seriously in every industry.