Avoid Lifting Injuries
 May. 25, 2011

When you think of workers’ compensation claims, most people think of back injury. Lifting is the most common cause of work related back injuries and back injuries are also among the most costly claims. Manufacturing operationsalmost always have a material handling loss exposure that is characterized by pushing, pulling and lifting.

How do you prevent these frequent and costly lifting injuries? Think about this four part strategy.

Step 1. Implement Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are often the most effective method of reducing lifting injuries because you avoid lifting in its entirety. Consider:

  • Mechanical devices to relieve the employee of heavy load lifting, as well as, carrying tasks.
  • Packaging materials in lighter weights.
  • Changes in workstation layout by re-positioning tools and materials within short reaching distances.
  • Employing clamps, grips and vises to hold work pieces. Suspending tools from above to reduce the effect of their weight.
  • Removing physical and visual obstructions where components are assembled to reduce awkward postures.

Step 2. Apply Administrative Controls

Administrative controls, which are often your operating policies and procedures, should serve to reduce lifting-related back injuries. For example:

  • Reduce shift length or curtail the amount of overtime, reducing fatigue.
  • Use job rotation. Rotate workers through several jobs with different physical demands to reduce the stress on limbs and body regions resulting from repetitive motion.
  • Schedule more breaks to allow for rest and recovery.
  • Adjust the work pace to relieve repetitive motion risks and allow the worker to have more control of the work process.
  • Train employees to recognize the risk factors associated with lifting. Ensure they are trained to follow work practices that ease the physical demands associated with lifting tasks.

Step 3. Focus on Alternative Lifting Techniques

A workers’ first inclination is to lift and carry materials, often exceeding what is physically safe. Alternative material handling techniques for carrying or moving loads should be used whenever possible to minimize the effects of lifting, bending, twisting, pushing and pulling movements. Advocate the use of:

  • Hand trucks
  • Forklifts
  • Pallet jacks and power pallet jacks
  • Dollies
  • Carts
  • Hoists

Step 4. Teach Safe Lifting Techniques

Training employees to lift safely should probably be the first priority in your safe lifting strategy. Make sure your safe lifting training helps employees to:

  • Prepare for the physical tasks - stretch briefly before lifting to loosen up back, arm, and shoulder muscles.
  • Think about the task at hand and determine whether more than one person or a mechanical device is needed for moving a load.
  • Feel encouraged to always ask for assistance if needed. Break down the load into parts where feasible.
  • Lift properly:
      Get a good grip on the load.
      Keep the load close.
      Keep balance with footwork.
      Lift with the back straight.
      Use the legs to lift without bending the back.
      Never twist or turn while lifting.
      Avoid lifting above the shoulder level.

For help in developing lifting strategies contact the CMTA Workers’ Compensation Group at wcgroup@cmta.net.

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