As an employer or manager, you are responsible for providing a safe and stable working environment for your employees. Without proper safety equipment, training and practices, your workers' efficiency declines to the point where absenteeism becomes a major threat to your company's growth and success. Did you know that back injuries are the most common reason for absenteeism, right after the common cold? If you want optimum health for your employees -- and maximum efficiency from them on the job -- follow these 7.75 guidelines for preventing back injuries when lifting heavy objects in the workplace.
Share these safe lifting tips with your team:
Observe & Assess
One of the most common reasons for lifting injuries is a failure to assess the environment before moving the object. Is the floor uneven or wet? Are there potential trip hazards? If you're going through a doorway, is it open and wide enough? Is there a clear path to the object's destination, and does the destination need to be cleared or prepared?
Test & Check
You also have to analyze the actual object before lifting. A small size does not guarantee a light load, so you cannot afford to rely on appearance. Test the mass by pushing it lightly with your hands and feet to see how easily it moves. Also, check to make sure the weight is balanced and packed correctly -- loose pieces inside a box throw off the balance of mass and put additional pressure on the back.
Grip & Handles
Make sure you have a tight grip on the object before lifting. If handles aren't already in place, consider applying them for easier handling.
Ladder & Leverage
Lifting a heavy object over your head or reaching for something above you causes an arch in the spin and strain to the lower back. To avoid this, use a ladder when handling objects over your head. Also, make sure to hold the object close to your body, with the heaviest part closest -- this subjects the spine to less leverage force.
Legs & Arms
Do the work with your appendages, not your back. To "lift with your legs," straddle the load, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
Slow & Smooth
Take your time and use fluid motions. Lifting an object with hurried and jerky movements causes major strain to the back.
Team & Tools
Overconfidence and reluctance to ask for help are very dangerous. It is not "spineless" to ask someone for help -- working as a team is much more efficient and safe than a strained, solo effort. And always make use of any tools available - support belts, slings, gratelifters, lifting gloves, attachable handles, etc. -- to ease the lifting process. Your spine will thank you for it.
Many people with back pain assume, naturally, that the pain stems from a weak back. This is not entirely true. When the abdominal muscles are weak, your back overcompensates in daily activities -- from lifting heavy objects to reaching for a coffee mug.
7.75. & MORE CORE
"Core strength," by definition, refers to the ability of your abdominal muscles and back to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced. So, back pain not only stems from a lack of strength, but also an imbalance in muscle strength. For example, if you work your rectus abdominus ("six pack") but fail to strengthen your transverse abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscles under the obliques), your back is going to strain to correct the imbalance.
It's crucial to look at the "big picture" when it comes to the health -- and resulting productivity -- of your employees. Just as you assess the entire environment and situation before commencing a job, you must also take into account all aspects of workplace safety. It's not just about the tools... it's also about the training and techniques.
For more information on our own TruLine® collection of safety products or the Environment Health & Safety (EH&S) Consulting and Training we offer, click below or call 800-523-5367 to speak to one of our workplace safety specialists.