In the workplace, employees are at risk of suffering from numerous types of work-related injuries. Among these are those directly related to lifting and manual handling. If you want to keep your employees safe and injury-free, this guide will tell you all about the proper lifting and handling of materials.
According to Safe Workplace Australia, the number one workplace-related injury is the sprain or strain. These make up 41.8% of workplace injury incidents in the country. Needless to say, having industrial-grade gear such as heavy-duty lifting cages for cranes is good, but not enough. Proper equipment should be complemented with complete OHS training for all employees and adequate monitoring to ensure that they’re using correct lifting techniques.
Injuries caused by lifting
The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) deems heavy lifting as one of the leading causes of workplace injuries, including:
- Back sprains
- Wrist injuries
- Elbow injuries
- Muscle pulls
- Spinal injuries
Additionally, some injuries may be caused by objects that are dropped during lifting. Dropping heavy items can result in broken toes, hands, or fingers, which can be very catastrophic, depending on the severity. These injuries can cause employees to miss work, meaning possible delays in operations due to lack of manpower.
How to lift properly
Making sure that all of your employees use the proper lifting technique is the best way to prevent injuries. Here is a rundown of how to lift heavy objects properly:
- Warm up. Muscles need to have proper blood flow to perform as they should. Encourage all employees to perform simple exercises to get their blood going before lifting anything heavy.
- Assess the load and path. Are there enough handholds on the load? Do you need to use mechanical means or have another person help you lift? Is your travel path free from any obstructions or potentially hazardous areas? Employees should not lift heavy objects without a clear plan in mind.
- Stand close to the load. Standing as close as possible to the load will decrease the force exerted on your lower back.
- Bend the knees. Lift with your legs and keep your back upright. When setting loads down, simply do the process in reverse.
- Carry the load properly. Move your feet to turn and change directions instead of turning or twisting the body. Remember to keep the load as close to your body as possible. Set it down if you feel fatigued.
Lifting gear you should have
For loads that are too heavy for manual handling, you need more equipment to lift them properly, such as:
- Dollies. Having dollies let employees quickly move multiple heavy loads at once with minimal risk of injury.
- Forklifts. If your operations require lifting of large and hefty objects that dollies cannot handle, forklifts will allow employees to move them around efficiently.
- Suction devices. These tools can be used as temporary handholds for objects that don’t have any.
- Pallet jacks. These are used to lift pallets through manual or mechanical pumping, much like a tire jack.
About a third of work-related injuries are related to heavy lifting. In many cases, most of these injuries result from improper lifting, often causing harm to the shoulders and/or back. So, don’t be part of the statistics; learn how to lift and handle materials properly today.