We often joke about how much we hate to pick up the house, tidy your desk, or clean the garage. We hear the phrase, “See a penny, pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck,” spoken all the time while growing up. But for many in the workplace, lifting objects bigger than a penny is no laughing matter when it comes to potential injuries from improper lifting. Disabling back injuries can not only keep you from earning a paycheck, but it can also keep you from enjoying your personal activities and time with family.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one in every five workplace injuries or illnesses.
Most of the pain and lost time can be prevented if you are aware of how to lift safely to protect your back. Here are some ways you can keep your body free from injury with a few simple posture reminders.
The most important thing to do before lifting anything is thinking about what you’re going to lift. Are there places to grasp? Does it have any slippery surfaces? Is the path you need to take clear? If you are unsure of what you’re about to lift, look it over for any potential hazards.
You shouldn’t just go by looks. Many objects that appear small and light, could be heavier than they look. If possible, gently test an item’s weight by pushing it with the side of your leg. If it’s heavier than what you think you can lift, get a co-worker to help. When lifting, tuck your chin to your chest. This will help keep your back as vertical as possible.
Keep your arms and shoulders as close to your body as possible. The farther your joints are away from your body, the more stress is put on them, which leads to an increased chance of arm injuries. If the load’s center of gravity moves away from your body, there is a dramatic increase in stress to the lumbar region of the back. You should try to minimize any turning or twisting, but if you must turn while carrying the load, turn using your feet.
Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes
You need a solid base of support when lifting anything. Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart and take short steps. If your feet are too close, you’ll be unstable. If they’re too far apart, you won’t move very well.
Your leg muscles are much, much stronger than your back muscles, so let your strengths work in your favor by lowering yourself with your knees instead of your back. Once you have a grip, lift with your legs and keep your back straight. When lifting objects, try not to twist with your body by taking small steps to face a direction. Keep your eyes up, too. Looking upwards will help keep your spine in a safe position.
Check with your manager as many companies have policies in place requiring maintenance staff to move heavy objects. Lifting and carrying heavy objects at work can leave you vulnerable to serious back injuries, which can keep you from earning a paycheck for months. If you keep in mind these helpful guidelines about proper lifting, you won’t be dropping the ball on your health when picking something up.