Get Back to Basics
People have thrown out their backs by bending over to pick up a feather or a piece of paper, leaving others amazed that something that weighs next to nothing could do that kind of damage. Of course, it’s not the object that caused the problem. More often than not, it’s the person’s lifting technique. Spread over a lifetime, poor lifting methods eventually damaged the person’s back enough to allow a mere feather to cause an injury.
Your back is involved in every movement you make, from sitting and standing to lifting and carrying. Each movement or position affects your back, and, if done incorrectly, can cause sudden or cumulative injury. But, your back is most vulnerable when you’re lifting or carrying loads, which makes proper technique important for helping to protect yourself from injury.
Keep your balance. Bending at the waist and reaching for an object can throw you off balance and affect your back’s alignment. This creates overload, forcing your back to support both the weight of your body and the object you’re lifting. These recommended lifting techniques can help you avoid overload:
- Crouch to pick up the load, hold the load close to your body, and lift using your legs.
- Instead of twisting while lifting, move your feet.
- Don’t be a hero! If the load is awkward or too heavy, ask for help or use a mechanical aid (hoist, dolly, cart, hand truck, etc.).
You can further help protect yourself with these best practices for material handling.
- Wear supportive footwear with slip-resistant soles.
- Be sure you’re steady and have solid footing before lifting.
- Make sure you have a place to set the load before you lift and move it.
- Never hurry while carrying a load, and be sure your pathway is clear.
- If possible, set up your work area to eliminate the need to lift or move heavy objects.
Back injuries are a leading cause of workers compensation claims, and American workers miss thousands of hours of work annually due to back problems. It’s never too late to protect yourself from injury due to lifting. Proper methods can help, and they certainly can’t hurt!
This article is only for general information and recommendations regarding risk prevention and should not be considered legal or other expert advice. The recommendations presented may help reduce or eliminate the risk of loss, but are not guaranteed to do so. Seek qualified counsel with questions specific to your circumstances. ©2015 Federated Mutual Insurance Company.
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