How to lift safely
Keep it close. The best way to handle any object is to keep the object in front, at waist level, and as close to the body as possible. There is a point just below the belly button that is the body’s center of gravity. When it comes to lifting and materials handling, our bodies work best when we keep the load at this central position.
If we move the load away from this center of gravity, we increase the physical effort needed to support and stabilize the body. Additional effort is then necessary to lift or move objects. This added stress makes the back work harder and increases the chance of injury.
Keep the curves. The spine is the primary structural column of the human body. The picture to the left shows the spine in its natural alignment. You will notice three curves—one in the neck, one in the upper back, and one in the lower back. You want to keep this alignment when lifting an object.
If you bend at the hips and knees, keep your feet flat on the ground, hold a wider stance with one foot in front of the other, and look straight ahead (instead of down at the item being lifted), the spine remains properly aligned. Workers are then able to use the power in their leg muscles to lift, taking pressure off the back. In contrast, bending over at the waist takes the spine out of the natural alignment and increases the amount of strain on the back.
At your safety meeting
Discuss with your employees the types of material that the job requires them to lift, and the risk of injury that comes with improper lifting.
Demonstrate the proper lifting technique.
Lastly, provide hand trucks and other lifting aids and encourage your employees to use this equipment whenever possible. Be sure to show them where it’s stored and remind them to return items to the proper place so others know where to find this equipment.
Back injuries don’t always happen right away. Many times, the wear and tear that comes with improper lifting develops over time. So, while using the wrong technique might not cause any pain right away, it could be paving the way for future trouble.
Keeping the spine aligned naturally and lifted material close to the center of gravity reduces stress to the spine. It also helps reduce missed work time and the risk of chronic back pain.
Your back with thank you for it.