Despite the increased use of mechanical material handling
equipment, many boxes, crates, bundles, and piles of materials
still must be moved manually. This can lead to one of the
most painful and costly work injuries employees can suffer-a
Whether material handling is your main job or
just something that needs to be done occasionally, safety
is very important. According to the National Safety Council,
400,000 workers suffer new back injuries each year. These
injuries occur everywhere, not just in the stockrooms and
Strains and sprains, fractures, and bruises are
the most common injuries, and most of the time they are caused
by unsafe work practices. No matter how knowledgeable or
skilled we are, we all need to be reminded about ways to avoid
injuries. Proper lifting is a learned skill that needs to
be practiced to keep the proper lifting methods fresh in your
Practice in lifting is as important as practice
in first aid. You can practice even when you can't actually
lift something. How? Before lifting, think your way through
the procedure. Practice within your mind the proper steps
in lifting the item.
Probably everyone has been told not to stoop over
to lift. Your leg muscles, not your backbone, should do the
work. Unfortunately, stooping over to lift is a habit we
form during childhood. One way to break a habit is to form
new ones. For example, if you stoop over to lift, retrain
yourself to lift with your legs. Keep reminding yourself
to do it this way until it becomes a new habit.
To lift a load to a point above your shoulders,
plan ahead so you can rest the load about waist high, then
change your grip and finish the lift. An even better idea
is to get help.
Another common mistake is getting your fingers
caught between the load and other surfaces. Lift the load
a little so that one edge rests on the floor or table first,
then let your hands slide up the sides so that when the full
weight comes down, your fingers are not caught underneath.
When walking through doorways or between machines, tuck your
hands in or turn the load so that your fingers won't be trapped
between the load and the other surface.
Finally, size up the job before you start the
lift. If it is too big or awkward, don't be afraid to ask
for help. After all, it is not just weight that makes a load
a two-person job, it is also the
size and shape.
To lift easily and safely, follow these six rules:
The feet-place one foot alongside the object to be lifted
and the other behind it. This gives you stability and thrust.
The back-keep your back straight
and use the sit-down position. Remember that means the back
itself is straight, not necessarily vertical.
The chin-Tuck in your chin so the neck and head continue the
straight back line formed by your neck.
The palms-extend your fingers and hands around the object
you are going to lift.
Arms and elbows-draw the load close to your body with your
arms and elbows tucked into the sides of your body.
Bodyweight-position yourself so the weight of your body is
centered over your feet. This provides a more powerful line
of thrust and good balance.