Lifting heavy items is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. In 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 36 percent of injuries involving missed workdays were the result of shoulder and back injuries. Overexertion and cumulative trauma were the biggest factors in these injuries.
When employees use smart lifting prac- tices and work in their “power zone,” they are less likely to suffer from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist injuries, el- bow injuries, spinal injuries, and other injuries caused by lifting heavy objects.
Here are some of the Potential Hazards:
Weight of Objects:
- Some loads, such as large spools of wire, bundles of conduit, or heavy tools and machinery place great stress on muscles, discs, and vertebrae.
- Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds will increase the risk of injury.
- Use ramps or lift gates to load machinery into trucks rather than lifting it.
- Place materials that are to be manually lifted at “power zone” height, about mid-thigh to mid-chest. Maintain neutral and straight spine alignment whenever possible. Usually, bending at the knees, not the waist, helps maintain proper spine alignment.
- Limit weight you lift to no more than 50 pounds. When lifting loads heavier than 50 pounds, use two or more people to lift the load.
- Bending while lifting forces the back to support the weight of the upper body in addition to the weight you are lifting. Bending while lifting places strain on the back even when lifting something as light as a screwdriver.
- Bending moves the load away from the body and allows leverage to significantly increase the effective load on the back. This increases the stress on the lower spine and fatigues the muscles.
- Reaching moves the load away from the back, increases the effective load, and places considerable strain on the shoulders.
- Carrying loads on one shoulder, under an arm, or in one hand, creates uneven pressure on the spine.
- Move items close to your body and use your legs when lifting an item from a low location.
- Store and place materials that need to be manually lifted and transported at “power zone” height, about mid-thigh to mid-chest.
- Minimize bending and reaching by placing heavy objects on shelves, tables, or racks. For example, stack spools on pallets to raise them into the power zone.
- Avoid twisting, especially when bending forward while lifting. Turn by moving the feet rather than twisting the torso.
- Keep your elbows close to your body and keep the load as close to your body as possible.
- Keep the vertical distance of lifts between mid-thigh and shoulder height. Do not start a lift below mid-thigh height nor end the lift above shoulder height. Lifting from below waist height puts stress on legs, knees, and back. Lifting above shoulder height puts stress on the upper back, shoulders, and arms.