It is important to remember that when lifting heavy items it may be necessary to use an assistive device or team lift. If this is not possible, the employee should be provided sufficient time to plan and complete any difficult lift.

Daily situations often require employees to lift items in a variety of positions. Making a lift totally risk-free is nearly impossible. The goal is to perform a particular lift in the “best way possible” if workers learn to review the brief “mental checklist” and incorporate as many of those components into the lift as possible they will be actively assuming responsibility for their own back care.

Repeated use of poor body mechanics is a major cause of back injuries. It is important that the supervisor recognize the movements and activities that are the most stressful.

Some of the common mistakes include:

1.   Lifting with the back bent forward and the legs straight.

This places significant stress on the support structures of the lower back.

2.  Using fast jerking motions.

Lifting objects which are hard to grip, working in an area with slipping and tripping hazards, or trying to work too fast can prevent smooth, safe technique.

3.  Bending and twisting at the same time.

Not pivoting the feet or squatting to lift causes maximum stress on the structures of the lower back.

4.  Handling the load too far away.

Failure to bring the load close to the body is another cause of injury. The stress increases 7 to 10 times when a load is at arm’s length.

5.  Poor planning.

Failing to size up or test the load, check the path of travel, or clear an area for the object to be placed often leads to additional stress on the back.

6.  Poor communication.

When two people are lifting together the movement must be coordinated. Any misunderstanding of instructions can also result in unnecessary risk.

7.  Insufficient strength.

Many times a lifting devise is required to move objects safely. Lack of necessary equipment often results in unsafe lifting activities. When lifting devices are made available, employees should be trained and required to use them because injuries sometimes occur when lifting devices available but not used.

As the supervisor surveys the work area, the use of good body mechanics should be reviewed daily. The employee should be required to follow the rules of good body mechanics. Many workers take lifting “shortcuts” which may appear to be easier or save time. And often individuals who have not experienced back pain do not think body mechanics rules apply to them. The supervisor must set and enforce the standards for safe lifting. Prior to initiating any lift, employees should review a “mental checklist”.

The rules of good body mechanics include the following:

1. Test the load.

Prior to lifting or moving an object, test the weight of the load to make sure it can be moved safely. Use a lifting device if necessary.

2. Plan the move.

Check the path of travel or destination of the load to make sure it is clear. Clear the path before picking up the load. Secure open all affected doorways.

3. Use a wide, balanced stance with one foot ahead of the other.

A solid base of support reduces the likelihood of slipping and jerking movements. Placing one foot beside the load is crucial to a proper lift.

4. Keep the lower back in its normal arched position while lifting.

Bend at the knees. With the back arched, the forces are more evenly distributed on the support structures.

5. Bring the load as close to the body as possible.

This keeps your back from acting as the fulcrum and reduces the stress.

6. Keep the bead and shoulders up and keep your eyes on the load.

This helps to keep the arch in the lower back and improves your balance.

7. Tighten the stomach muscles as the lift begins.

This causes the abdominal cavity to become a weight bearing structure, thus unloading the spine.

8. Lift with the legs and stand up in a smooth, even motion.

Using the strength of the legs to straighten the knees and hips as the lift is completed decreases the lower back stress.

9. Move the feet (pivot) if a direction change is necessary.

This eliminates the need to twist at the waist, thus significantly reducing the stress on the supporting structures of the back.

10. Communicate if two or more individuals are involved in the movement.

This reduces the likelihood of an error that could result in sudden or jerking movements.

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