Toolbox Topic: Lifting Safety (Manual Material Handling)
Lifting is an everyday activity that can be dangerous if not done correctly. In this episode, we will talk about proper lifting techniques and strategies for avoiding injury.
Lifting is moving or bringing an object upward, moving something to a higher position.
Typically lifting injuries are thought of as just back injuries, and that is often the case, but they can include:
- Wrist injuries
- Elbow injuries
- Muscle pulls
- Spinal injuries
- Back sprains
Mankind has been trying to lift things or move things since the beginning of time. Some have gone to great lengths to condition their bodies to lift increasingly heavy objects. And at some point, people even made a sport out of it! And what man couldn’t use brute strength to lift, he would invent machines to help him accomplish that task.
In prehistoric times, members of tribes competed in lifting huge rocks. The first person to successfully lift one would inscribe their name on it.
Weightlifting started out using primarily stones, but eventually, dumbbells were developed. The barbel came about much later, sometime in the 19th century. The early barbells used hollow globes filled with sand or lead shot. By the end of the nineteenth century, modern plate-loading barbells were developed.
Weightlifting was introduced in the 1896 Athens Olympic games as a part of track and field. In 1914 it was recognized as its own sport.
Although weight training gyms were rare in the 1960s, they became increasingly popular in the 1970s, following the release of the bodybuilding movie Pumping Iron, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Man’s fascination with lifting machines started back in Egyptian times. The Egyptians used the principle of a seesaw or teeter-totter to develop simple lifting devices such as inclined planes and levers. Moving something up a ramp instead of lifting it straight up required less force, but it took more time to move.
The first cranes were simple machines that used a rope passed over a pulley. Early on, the single pulley was used for drawing well water. A single pulley changes the direction of the pull but offers no real mechanical advantage in and of itself. Think about it this way; it’s always easier to pull down on a rope rather than pull up. In the 4th century BC, the compound pulley was developed, combining single pulleys into a single block. The mechanical advantage is equal to the number of pulleys used. So a crane with five pulleys allows you to lift five times more than you otherwise could, but the disadvantage is that the rope must be pulled over five times the distance.
Cranes began appearing in Greece around the 5th century BC. The Romans wanted to build large monuments, so they developed the technology even further.
Cranes have continued to develop, and today, The most common tower crane has a lifting capacity of 12 to 20 tons.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than one million workers suffer back injuries every year.
One out of five workplace injuries are back injuries.
25% of WC claims involve back injuries, costing billions of dollars for company’s and causing undue pain and suffering for employees.
The top four risk factors for back injuries include:
Poor physical condition
Improper body mechanics
Incorrect lifting techniques
Safe Lifting Tips
Tip#1 Avoid Lifting Injuries
Whenever possible, try to store items at waist height. Lifting an item a shorter distance reduces the likelihood of an injury. Use carts, dollies, forklifts, and hoists instead of your body to move materials.
Tip# 2 Before Lifting
Lift a corner of an object to test the weight. Also, Wear gloves to get a firm grip. Before you get started, be sure you have a clear path of travel.
Tip# 3 Prepare for the lift
Prepare your body by stretching at the start of your shift. Warming up your muscles will reduce the likelihood of strain. When lifting, try not to “jerk” your body. Lift as smoothly as possible. Also, take your time! You are more likely to be injured when you are in a hurry, tired, or cold.
Tip#4 Get help When Lifting
If you don’t have access to a mechanical aid, ask for help. Two people lifting an object decreases the weight by half. Three people reduce the weight by two-thirds.
Tip#5 Proper Lifting Techniques
- Spread your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend down with your knees and get close to the object.
- Get a firm grip.
- Keep your back straight and elbows close to your body.
- Stand to lift the object and at the same time tighten your stomach muscles to provide back support. Don’t hold your breath while doing this, however.
- Keep the load as close to your body as possible.
- Remember, DO NOT twist or bend at the waist; move your feet and legs when turning. Twisting while lifting significantly increases the risk of injury. The reason is that some of your muscles do not engage when you twist, creating more stress on the ones that do.