Back injuries are among the most common injuries in the workplace, incurring above-average workers’ compensation costs, according to the National Safety Council. More than half of these injuries occur when employees try to lift objects.
The council recommends warming up your back before attempting heavy lifting. Warm-up exercises such as back bends and leg stretches can help limber up the back muscles and avoid strain. Also, be sure you have the proper safety gear to protect your hands and feet before beginning a lift.
Additional measures can help protect your back during lifting:
- Size up the load before beginning. Check not only the size and weight of the load, but also look for splinters, rough edges or exposed nails. If a load is too heavy or bulky to manage alone, do not attempt to lift it. Seek assistance from a co-worker or, if available, a mechanical lifting device.
- Use proper lifting techniques. Be sure your footing is solid and your back remains straight. With your weight centered over your feet, get a good grip on the load and pull it in close to your body. Pull in your stomach muscles and lift with your legs to avoid stressing your back. When turning, move your feet rather than pivoting and twisting the back.
- If a load is high, use a step stool or ladder to reach it – do not simply reach up for objects that are above your shoulders. Get as close to the load as possible and slide it toward you. The pulling and lifting should all be done with your arms, not your back.
- If a load is positioned low, under a rack or in a cabinet, bend down at the knees and pull the object toward you. Try to balance the load on one knee before lifting and, as always, lift with your legs.