Using the wrong method to lift heavy weights is a leading cause of back pain and injury. One in five injuries in the workplace is a back injury. The total cost of workplace back injuries for the nation ranges between $20 and $50 billion annually.
Follow these tips when you are required to lift or move a heavy load:
- Bend at your knees, not your waist.
- Do not lift the object over your head.
- Do not twist your body.
- Hold the object as closely to you as possible, between shoulder and knuckle height
- Use your abdominal muscles to help spread the work from your back muscles.
- Push instead of pulling a heavy object on the floor.
- Ask for help!
People who have to carry or move heavy loads in their jobs, such as shelf stockers, may be given a back belt. Wearing a back belt is a personal choice and always should be used in combination with other steps to prevent back injury. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of a back belt to prevent injury although some people claim they provide comfort, support and a reminder to be careful.
Heavy Lifting Tools
Workplaces where people are required to move heavy loads frequently should have tools available that make use of gravity, such as slides, chutes, hoists, pallet jackets and hand trucks. If you have to move an object that weighs 50 pounds or more, take advantage of one of these tools.
Hand trucks are the most common and useful tools to help move boxes, spools of fencing or wire, and other materials that are too heavy or bulky to carry but not big enough to need a forklift.
Here are some tips for the safe use of hand trucks:
- Make sure the item is securely positioned and/or tied onto the hand truck
- Make sure you can see over the items you are moving, instead of trying to see around them
- Make sure your path is clear and reasonably even.
- Push the hand truck forward instead of pulling it backward.
- If you are going downhill, push it in front of you; keep it behind you if you are going uphill. This will prevent the hand truck from running into you if you lose your grip.
- Use a hand truck that has handles that allow your hands and arms to push from the “power zone” – the power zone is between your shoulders and thighs – instead of requiring you to bend down low or stretch up to push.
- Wear solid shoes with good grip to maintain sound footing.
- Check that all wheels are stable and inflated to the correct pressure. Replace the wheels or do not use that item if one or more wheels is unsafe.
- Use electrical or stair climbing hand trucks or ramps to move objects from one level to another safely.