04/26/2004

Tips: Preventing back injuries through proper lifting techniques

Workers injure their backs more frequently than any other body part. Therefor
in the following some advice on proper lifting to prevent these
often-debilitating injuries.

Assess the situation

Before lifting or carrying a heavy object, ask yourself the following
questions.


  • Can you lift this load safely, or is it a two-person lift?
  • How far will you have to carry the load?
  • Is the path clear of clutter, cords, slippery areas, overhangs,
    stairs, curbs or uneven surfaces?
  • Will you encounter closed doors? Ask someone to hold the door open,
    or place a wedge under the door to keep it open.
  • Once the load is lifted, will it block your view? Will you be able
    to see over the top of the load?
  • Can the load be disassembled, carried in pieces and then
    reassembled?
  • Should you wear any personal protective equipment, such as gloves
    or safety shoes? The proper gloves can improve your grip as well as protect
    your hands.

Then:


  • Size up the load. Test the weight by lifting a corner of the object. If
    it is too heavy or if the object is an odd shape, stop.
  • If there is any doubt, ask for help. Two or three lifting a heavy
    object is safer than trying to do it yourself.
  • Use a hand truck, pushcart or mechanical lifting device
  • Never lift anything unless you are sure you can do it safely using
    proper lifting techniques.
  • Avoid overloading.
  • Stretch out or "warm up" your back to increase circulation.

Lifting techniques


  • When lifting, always keep your back straight or slightly arched. Let your
    legs do the lifting. Your leg muscles are powerful.
  • Start by placing your feet close to the load. Get firm footing.
  • Center your body over your feet.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Squat down like a weightlifter, bending your knees and keeping your
    back straight or slightly arched.
  • Grasp the load securely with your hands, and pull the load close to
    you. The farther the load is from your body, the heavier it will feel.
  • Smoothly lift straight up. Never twist your body while lifting.
    Keep your head up, and look straight ahead, not down.

Carrying the load


  • Continue to keep your back straight or slightly arched.
  • Walk slowly and surely.
  • Shift your feet to change directions. Never twist your back.
    Twisting puts a grinding, compressive weight on the cartilage in the spine;
    repeated frequently enough, the action can cause cartilage failure.
  • Avoid leaning forward or backwards.
  • Avoid lifting over your head.
  • If you become tired, set the load down and rest for a few
    minutes.

Setting the load down


  • Position yourself where you want the load.
  • Squat down and let your legs do the work.
  • Remember not to twist your body while setting down a load, and keep
    your head up.
  • Once the load is where you want it, release your grip. Never
    release your grip until the load is secure.

Hand trucks and pushcarts

When using a hand truck or pushcart, remember:


  • It is easier and safer to push than to pull.
  • Stay close to the load, try not to lean over and keep your back
    straight and arched.
  • Use both hands to control the hand truck or cart.
  • Use tie-downs, if necessary, to secure the load.
  • Avoid stairs and inclines. Use the freight elevator if
    available.

Forklifts

  • If an object is too heavy to lift or carry with a hand truck,
    use a forklift.

WARNING: Never attempt to operate a forklift or other lifting equipment
unless you have been trained and authorized by your organization to do so.

Further Information


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