In order to move the load, the worker should use their feet exclusively in changing direction, and walk in a steady, even stride towards the destination.
While moving, the load should be kept as close to the body as possible. This increases the stability of the load. If the load is held out, this increases the burden of the work to the arms and lower back. This results in a dramatic increase in stress to the lumbar region. The legs and abdominal muscles bear less of the workload. It should be remembered at all times that the legs are the strong muscle group and the abdominal muscles are the best source of core stability. To reduce their role in the lift is to increase the risk of injury to other muscle groups.
When the load has arrived at the destination, the process for set-down should be the reverse of the process for pick-up. The load should never be dropped. Rather, it should be set down, the worker keeping the load as close to possible to his/her body and bending his/her knees to bring the load to the floor.
There are other considerations when undertaking the lift of a heavy object in the workplace. The first is the use of safety equipment. A back brace provides additional core support, which reduces stress on the lower back. A back brace is only a supplemental tool and will not prevent injuries, especially if good lifting form is not adhered to. In fact, studies conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have concluded that there is a lack of scientific support to suggest that back braces prevent injury. Steel-toed boots should be worn to protect the feet in the event that the load slips or is dropped. If necessary, protective gloves can be worn. Gloves also provide extra gripping capability and absorb sweat that could otherwise cause the load to slip from the worker's hands. Slippage results in an unstable load, placing additional strain on all muscle groups. As these groups are subjected to instability, the lower back is often called upon to provide this stability, leading to injury.
In many workplaces where regular lifting is involved, there are limits in place on the amount of weight one person is permitted to lift. If an object approaches that limit, a second person is required to assist. Each person should take an opposite side of the load, then lift as prescribed above, simultaneously. One person should be the leader, and call out the timing of the lift so both people are working in concert.
Workplaces should be designed to minimize the need for manual lifting. Proper ergonomic design can help reduce the risk of injury by reducing the weight lifted, the frequency of lifting required, or the distance an object needs to be lifted. Any workplace where regular lifting occurs should be fully equipped with a variety of lifting tools including dollies, pneumatic lifts, pallet-jacks, or automated materials handling equipment.
Heavy lifting in the workplace is often required, but unfortunately results in over a million injuries per year to American workers. Many of these injuries are avoidable, if proper techniques are observed before, during and after the lift. The reduction of heavy-lifting injuries should be a goal for any company and any worker for whom the task is required.
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