Whether you run a construction business or manage an artisan bakery, your employees will have to move heavy materials or large loads of goods and supplies. Whether heavy lifting is an everyday responsibility or just a once-in-a-while necessity, employees need to know how to do so safely.
As a business owner, you have to provide ample training for any employees who perform this type of physical labor. Not only can this prevent painful and costly injuries, but it can maximize your employees’ productivity and minimize your workers’ compensation insurance liabilities.
Handling and moving materials incorrectly are among the leading causes of workplace injuries. Poor heavy lifting technique and resulting accidents often cause back sprains, pulled muscles, tendon injuries to the wrist or elbow, spinal trauma like slipped discs, and agitation of repetitive-stress injuries.
Fortunately, workers’ compensation insurance covers expenses associated with lifting-related injuries, including medical bills and lost wages. You can click here to learn how to respond to any employee injury at work and to better understand your role in the workers’ compensation process.
Ideally, you’ll never have to use this action plan. Instead, you should spend your time and resources on preventative measures like educating employees on ergonomics, pre-lifting warmups, proper lifting posture, secure grips, and using equipment safely.
Stretches, Warmups, and General Tips for Safe Lifting
When training employees in proper lifting techniques, be sure to communicate clear procedures for heavy lifting preparation. Before picking up a single thing, the employees doing the lifting should stage the area. Instruct your workers to check for anything blocking their path, such as debris or a water spill. Also, movers should make sure that everyone helping with the lift understands the route.
With these logistics taken care of, the lifters should warm up and stretch before doing the physical labor. Stretching the back, arms, and legs can loosen your muscles enough to prevent a muscle tear or repetitive stress injury. It also helps if employees run in place or do some jumping jacks to get their blood flowing.
All employees who move heavy materials should understand the “right” way to pick up any object. Many people make the mistake of bending when they lift, which puts more strain on the back because it then has to support the item’s weight and upper body. Bending to life also moves the weight away from the body, putting more leverage on the back, making falls and fatigue more likely. It’s also ideal to avoid carrying loads on only one side since this unbalances the spine.
Proper lifting posture involves holding items close to your body and lifting with your legs rather than your back. The “power zone,” located between the thighs and mid-chest, is ideal for holding items when carrying them. Employes should try to avoid twisting the body and keep their back and neck as even as possible to prevent spinal issues when lifting heavy objects.
Workers who hold objects for an extended period, such as those installing fixtures, face a different set of risks. While the objects might not be heavy enough to cause trauma or falls, the constant pressure on the back and shoulders can cause repetitive stress injuries or fatigue. When muscles are held in a stress position without the opportunity to rest, they’re starved of nutrients and more vulnerable.
To avoid such injuries, employers can train employees to do as much prep work on the ground as possible and work in shifts to break up the time any one person spends supporting the object.
Handholds and Grip
Objects with inadequate handholds, such as large boxes with no handles or cutouts, are challenging to move even if they aren’t that heavy. To move such objects, people often bend down to lift from beneath or contort their bodies in an unnatural way to get a better hold. Lifting objects in this manner not only increases the chances of an injury, but it risks drops and damage to the item being moved.
To avoid lifting incidents, movers can create or affix handles, slots, or holes to the item or packaging to create comfortable handholds. You can also communicate with suppliers to ensure anything they ship is properly equippedfor safe lifting. It’s also important for all employees to wear gloves while lifting to avoid lacerations and other hand injuries and provide a better grip.
Safe Lifting Technique for Smooth Operation
A lifting-related injury can leave a good employee out of commission and throw off a major shipment. Fortunately, most of these injuries are preventable. With mindfulness, proper tools, and regular training, your staff can get the job done safely every time they have a heavy load to transport.
Interesting related article: “What is Occupational Injury?“