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Back Injuries: What’s Wrong With These Pictures? Part 2

Julie Copeland

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Welcome back to this week’s Arbill Blog Series, “What’s Wrong With These Pictures?” We hope you found our first installment on back injury risks and the benefits of ergonomics helpful.

Learn how to prevent back injury by practicing proper lifting techniques and minimizing the effects of manual material handling.
To kick this post off, we’d like to extract a fact from Monday’s post, as it drives the focus of Part 2 in this series:

“Three out of four reported back injuries occur while an employee is lifting.”

The most common area where back injuries occur is with manual material handling (MMH) jobs. MMH is the moving of objects unaided by mechanical devices. Let’s take a look at ways to reduce the risk of back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders for this kind of work.

The First Rule: Practice Proper Lifting Techniques
It’s fairly simple: improper bending and lifting causes back injury.

The actual weight of what you’re lifting doesn’t have to be all that heavy to provoke a back injury. In fact, picking up a 20 pound box by bending at the waist with your arms outstretched in front of you puts up to 400 pounds of compressive force on the fulcrum of your lower back.

Now, multiply that 20 pound box by three times or more and imagine what kind of pressure you’re putting on your back! 

Here are some lifting techniques that are helpful in preventing back injuries:

  • Take a wider stance.
  • Bend at your knees, not at your waist and keep your back straight.
  • Keep the object close to you.
  • Hold an item in the space between your armpits and your knees.
  • Point your feet at the item your lifting.
  • Change direction with your feet, not your waist.

It should be mentioned that you should never lift a heavy object above shoulder level, and ideally you should only move objects that are only 20% of your body weight or less. 

Minimizing The Effects Of Manual Material Handling
Any worker who manually handles materials is at risk for a back injury -- particularly the lower back. MMH typically involves awkward postures and repeated forceful movements. By using workplace safety practices, it’s possible to significantly reduce the risk for back injury from MMH. Here’s how:

  • Eliminate Heavy MMH: It might not be realistic to eliminate MMH tasks altogether, so consider using mechanical handling systems such as lift tables, conveyors, yokes, trucks, gravity dumps and chutes. 
  • Decrease MMH Demands: Decrease the acceptable weight of handled objects or assign two people to split lifting the load. Lower objects instead of lifting them. Reduce the distance for carrying, pushing or pulling, and alternate heavy tasks with lighter ones.
  • Reduce Stressful Body Movements: Bending and twisting are particularly dangerous for your back and cause injury even if you’re not handling materials. Reduce these kinds of movements by providing all materials at a work level that is adjusted to the body size and have enough space for the entire body to maneuver with ease.

Tension in the body makes it more susceptible to injury. Employees, especially those doing MMH work, should warm up before starting work. Proper stretching and limbering results in mental readiness -- that’s an important chain of events for all MMH jobs.

It’s also important to note that pre-placement screening helps with preventing back injuries, by selecting workers who are less likely to be injured. The best pre-selection method is to have the worker perform the actual task and take it from there. 

Want to learn more about how to prevent workplace injuries? Call 800-523-5367 or click on the button below to speak with an Arbill safety specialist. 

Put Safety On Speed Dial

Topics: back injuries, workplace injury, preventing back injuries

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