No matter what industry you work in, some amount of lifting likely will be required. Overexertion injuries – which most often occur when a load is being lifted or otherwise handled – account for 22 percent of nonfatal work injuries, according to 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sprains (stretched or torn ligaments) and strains (stretched or pulled tendons or muscles) account for 40 percent of cases requiring days away from work.
The best procedure for lifting can vary depending on conditions and the size and shape of the object being lifted, which is why the National Safety Council points out the following Dos and Don’ts of lifting in all situations:
- DO design out lifting and lowering tasks in the workplace whenever possible. If the task must be performed by a worker, ensure it is done between knuckle and shoulder height.
- DO maintain good physical shape to be able to complete lifts. Employees not accustomed to lifting or vigorous exercise should not be assigned difficult lifting or lowering tasks.
- DO think before acting. Place necessary materials within reach, be sure there is sufficient space and pathways are clear, and have handling aids available.
- DO ensure a good grip on the load to be lifted. Test the weight and balance before attempting to lift, and use a mechanical lifting device or additional assistance if necessary.
- DO hold the load close to your body. Stand in a stable position with feet pointed in the direction of movement, and lift mostly by straightening the legs.
- DO NOT twist the back or bend sideways.
- DO NOT lift or lower awkwardly.
- DO NOT hesitate to get additional help from a mechanical device or co-worker.
- DO NOT lift or lower with arms extended.
- DO NOT continue lifting if the load is too heavy.
- DO NOT lift above your shoulders or below your knees.