Eliminating the Strain of Manual Lifting

When considering high-risk work, working from heights and in confined spaces typically top the list. Although, in most of the cases, back strain does not result from similar activities, the risk of muscle strains and other ailments are quite common in the workplace. Manual lifting takes a turn for the worst when basic lifting techniques are ignored and when employees succumb to the pressures of attempting to complete a job task in an unrealistic span of time.

Fortunately, the workplace can be populated with policies, equipment, and procedures that dictate a safe approach to manual lifting. The challenge surfaces in the form of adhering to these approaches of lifting safely.

Bend from the Knees

A common phrase heard in the field is “bend your knees and keep your back straight.” While it often seems unnatural when using this lifting approach, the result yields less stress on the back. That result serves as a motivating factor in repeating the process for the next manual lift.

Bending the knees causes them to take the strain of the load instead of it being distributed to the back. If one must lift a load solo, this is the best approach. The weight of the load should still be considered. A good rule of thumb is to avoid solo manual lifts for loads weighing more than 50 pounds. There are times, however, when loads exceeding that ideal weight must be addressed.

The Buddy System

For objects weighing over 50 pounds and subjected to a manual lift, personal considerations should be administered. It is highly recommended that a person faced with making the lift should solicit help in the form of the buddy system.

Keeping things simplistic, the approach in a buddy-system lift still mirrors that of the solo lift. Both parties should concentrate on keeping their backs straight and using their knees as the hydraulic force in making the lift. Keep the weight of the object close to the chest to maintain an effective center of gravity.

The buddy system should remain in effect if the load needs to be transported. Simultaneous steps should be taken with the object remaining close to the bodies. The process of the lift repeats in setting the load down at the desired destination.

Use the Crane and Don’t Strain

Technology is a wonderful thing. Success in all areas of life result from technological advancements. This school of thought should carry over to lifting. If the equipment is available, employees should take advantage and use it to its full ability.

If a forklift is available in a warehouse, there should be no question about how to lift or move a heavy crate or box. No time needs to be wasted or employee health compromised in attempting to make the lift manually.

A proactive approach to lifting serves as an effective means of avoiding incident and injury. When considering hazards of planned work, the industry approach involves eliminating the risk, if possible, and then instituting engineering and administrative controls if the hazard cannot be eliminated.

This same action plan can lead to a safe and successful outcome when it comes to lifting. Companies and their workforces can avoid any potential injury associated with manual lifting by avoiding the action altogether. No better method can replace this method besides using a mechanical device to uninitiate the lift.

The challenge in utilizing mechanical lifting in replacement of manual lifting is ensuring the necessary equipment is available and ensuring that the workforce is adequately trained to use it safely. A robust training program and good pre-job planning can ensure the equipment is readily available when needed. Implementing correct use when needed drastically enhances the potential for safe lifting outcomes.

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 Nick@shalemag.com