The key to avoiding back injury at work is planning ahead before starting the work. Take the following steps to minimize injury:
- The safest way to handle the situation is to use whatever form of mechanical means that you have available to you. This means using excavators, loaders, forklifts, dollies, come-along’s, pry-bars, etc. etc. Always use machinery or equipment as your first defense against back injury at work.
- Ask a co-worker for help. Generally, a worker can safely lift 50 lbs without serious concern of back injury assuming proper form is used. For example, if a piece of equipment weighs 140 lbs, 3 workers should be available to lift the weight. All workers should also be watching out for one another, and should offer to help out if they see someone else trying to lift something that is too heavy.
- If you are uncomfortable with the lifting task, discuss the situation with your supervisor! NEVER hesitate to talk to your supervisor if you feel that any activity could be dangerous.
Proper Lifting technique:
- Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other.
- Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If needed, put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right angle (half kneeling).
- Keep good posture. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back. This helps keep your upper back straight while having a slight arch in your lower back.
- Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Keep your back straight. Don’t twist as you lift!
- Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.
- Use your feet to change direction and take small steps.
- Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.
- Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.
- Do not attempt to lift by bending forward. Bend your hips and knees to squat down to your load, keep it close to your body, and straighten your legs to lift.
- Never lift a heavy object above shoulder level.
- Avoid turning or twisting your body while lifting or holding a heavy object.