A very common cause of back injuries comes from lifting and/or lowering large, heavy, or bulky items into or out of a car trunk or back seat. To help your employees reduce their risk of suffering back injuries on the job, here are some tips they can follow:
Build a Bridge. To take the stress off your back when bending forward (called trunk flexion) put a hand down on a stable surface as you extend a leg behind you for balance. Building a bridge supports and braces the upper body and decreases the load placed on the low back.
Body mechanics. To avoid twisting, move your feet so that your body faces the direction you are lifting or lowering. If loading/unloading to or from a cart, place it perpendicular to the vehicle’s trunk so that the travel distance of the turn is reduced in half, from 180 degrees to 90 degrees. This will also reduce the tendency to want to twist.
Slide the object towards you. Two common risk factors for back injuries are how far away the load is from the body (called horizontal distance) and how close the load is to the ground (called vertical distance). The greater the horizontal and vertical distances, the greater the amount of trunk flexion. First build a bridge, grasp the object, and then pull it towards you before lifting. If possible, get the item onto the trunk lip in order to get a better grip. Lift and lower by bending your knees and keeping the load close to the body. Remember to practice good body mechanics by turning your entire body to face the direction of the lift or lower.
Create a false bottom in the trunk. If a trunk is deep with a high lip, bending over to retrieve an item then lift the item up over the trunk lip increases the likelihood of an injury. A false bottom can be created by overturning a box and putting the item(s) on top of the box. Different height levels can be created by using different sizes of boxes. Remember to secure the box(es) to prevent sliding.
Cargo nets. Many cars come equipped with a cargo net at the trunk’s front edge which stretches from side-to-side. Keep small, loose, or frequently used items in the net to prevent them from sliding to the back of the trunk.
Vehicle trunk organizers. Consider keeping small items in a plastic storage box. To prevent the box from sliding around, put the “hook” side of adhesive-backed Velcro strips on the bottom of the box. Commercial trunk organizers are also available.
Cargo slides. Cargo slides that pull in and out of vans and SUVs can help decrease the bending and reaching often associated with these tasks.
Secure items in the back seat. If you must temporarily put items such as a laptop or small bag in the back seat, secure it using the seat belt. In the event of a sudden stop or accident, it is possible for those items to become deadly weapons by flying forward and hitting the front seat passenger(s).
Retrieving items from the back seat. When retrieving items from the back seat; park so that the door(s) can be fully opened. To limit trunk flexion, try to keep everything on the same side or walk around the vehicle to get items from the other side.
Luggage cart. If multiple items are transported on a folding luggage cart, take the time to unload the cart versus lifting the fully loaded cart into or out of the trunk or back seat.
Get help. For larger, heavier items, ask someone to help you.
Stretch. Driving is a seated posture. When you get out of the vehicle, stretch by doing a back bend. With your feet shoulder width apart, hands on your hips, and looking straight ahead (don’t throw your head back), slowly and gently bend backwards. Hold for 5 seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat two or three times.