Workplace Injuries Caused By Heavy Lifting
Have you ever been asked to lift a heavy object at work in Champaign that proved to be a difficult task? Or do you regularly lift and move heavy objects on the job? Either way, it is important to recognize the many ways in which heavy lifting can result in workplace injuries and missed workdays. Indeed, according to a fact sheet from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “lifting heavy items is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace.” To be sure, more than one-third of all work-related injuries (about 36 percent) involve harm to the shoulder and/or back that often result from heavy lifting.
The OSHA fact sheet explains that heavy lifting can result in both traumatic and overexertion injuries, including but not limited to:
- Back sprains;
- Muscle pulls;
- Wrist injuries;
- Elbow injuries; and
- Spinal injuries.
In response to the high rate of workplace injuries caused by heavy lifting, OSHA cites some primary causes of heavy lifting injuries and preventive steps that should be taken for each.
Dealing with the Heavy Weight of Objects
OSHA emphasizes that the mere weight of objects can cause injuries. In numerous industries, bundles and machinery—which need to be moved—can weight in excess of 50 pounds. Whenever you lift something that weighs more than 50 pounds, you increase the risk of injury to your muscles, your discs, and your vertebrae. What can you do to prevent injury caused by the weight of objects? OSHA recommends the following:
- Use forklifts or duct lifts to lift these objects;
- Use pallet jacks or hand trucks to move these objects;
- Make use of suction devices that can create temporary handles;
- Employ ramps and/or lift gates;
- Place the materials that need to be lifted at the “power zone” height, which involves lifting from about the mid-thigh area to the mid-chest area;
- Maintain straight spine alignment whenever you are lifting;
- Bend at your knees and not at your waist; and
- Encourage employers to order supplies and other materials in smaller quantities that weight less than 50 pounds.
Preventing Awkward Postures When Lifting
Another major cause of heavy lifting injuries involves lifting with an awkward posture. In particular, if you bend your body while you are lifting, or if you carry loads unevenly under one arm or over one shoulder, you can increase the risk of injury. To prevent heavy lifting injuries from awkward postures, OSHA recommends the following safety tips:
- Move items as close as possible to your body;
- Keep your elbows close to your body when lifting;
- Manually lift only from the “power zone” height;
- Avoid bending your body when lifting by placing heavy objects above ground level; and
- Do not twist when lifting an object.
Avoiding Injuries from High-Frequency and/or Long-Duration Lifting
If you have to lift heavy objects frequently, and/or if you must lift those objects for an extended period of time—even when the loads are not especially heavy in weight—you can sustain overexertion injuries. To avoid these injuries, consider the following:
- Use stands or jigs to hold objects when they are not in motion;
- Work in teams so that no single employee is lifting constantly or holding heavy objects for a long duration; and
- Take regular breaks so that every employee has adequate rest periods to avoid overexertion.