Safe Lifting Techniques In The Workplace
Following on from my previous article on how to prevent back pain, here’s some more tips and techniques that can help prevent back pain in the first place, and help protect your back if you already suffer with it.
How To Prevent Back Injury When Lifting
Warm up to the task. Before lifting anything (and after-ward, too), perform some stretching movements to limber up.
Stay balanced. Plant your feet at least shoulder-width apart for a solid base of support.
Keep your back straight and don’t twist. Use the strength of your legs, not your spine. Bend at the knees, not at the waist, and to get up push off on one foot if necessary. Lifting heavy objects without bending your legs can lead to what kind of spinal injuries. A back support such as those worn by the salespeople at many home-supply stores can keep you from bending at the waist, but some believe long-term use can lead to weaker back muscles.
Preventing Back Injuries In The Workplace
Stay close. Never lift anything with your arms extended. Before the lift, get as close to the object as you can; the nearer it is, the less stress on the back. Heavy objects are best carried at waist or pelvis level, no higher. Carry heavy things at the center of gravity of the body or as close as possible. The center of gravity is two centimeters in front of the second sacral vertebra – where God, in her wisdom, put the uterus. That’s a good place to carry things.
Don’t reach. On the same principle as above, once you have lifted something, don’t extend your arms with the object in them. According to medical studies, holding five kilograms (eleven pounds) with your arms extended exerts more pressure than lifting twice as much with your back straight and your knees bent. Walk over close to where you are taking the object and use a step-stool to reach anything above shoulder height.
Push, don’t pull. It exerts less pressure. Keep your back properly aligned and use leg muscles to do the work.
How To Lift Heavy Objects Correctly
Know your load. Trouble can result when there’s a mismatch between the amount of weight you think you’re picking up and what you actually are – and heavy objects aren’t the only ones that present a risk. Gearing up to lift a heavy suitcase and abruptly finding out it’s empty, for instance, will result in a more extreme and sudden movement than that for which you were prepared. It’s called unexpected load. Your brain calculates what the load is going to be and readies the muscles accordingly, and if it gets surprised you can get a strain or a sprain. “Test” the load first.
Brace yourself. For heavier objects, keep your abdominal muscles braced, but don’t hold your breath.
Even out. Try to balance the weight evenly. Instead of one heavy suitcase, pack two lighter ones, and carry one in each hand. If you must tote a heavy purse or bookbag, don’t lug it all on one shoulder; opt for a backpack that evenly distributes the weight.
Get help. Don’t try to lift objects that are too heavy or awkward to grasp. The right tool, dolly, wheelbarrow, or friend can lighten your load.
Turning. Don’t twist your spine. Turn or pivot the whole body in the direction you want to move – feet first.