Lower back injuries frequently plague construction sites. Most of the time, however, they can be avoided if safe lifting techniques are implemented. Safe lifting keeps your back healthy and allows you to avoid common workplace injuries, such as lower back pain. Here are some simple tips regarding safe lifting and how to make sure they are part of your safety procedures:
- Inspect the Load: Evaluating what you are about to lift is very important. Do you need more than one set of hands? What is it made of? These are all questions you must ask before you pick up something. Knowing the strength you will need to lift an object BEFORE you lift it can help prevent many lower back injuries.
- Clear Obstacles: Look over the path you will be walking while carrying the object. Make sure all is clear and any obstacles are moved out of the way before you lift an object.
- Center of Gravity: When you are holding a heavy object, your regular sense of balance will be compromised. In order to remedy this, always hold the object close to your body and at the center of your person (between shoulders and legs).
- Foot Position: Always place your feet shoulder width apart, with one foot on each side of the object. By doing this, you will have all of the strength of your leg muscles to use as you hoist the object to the position where you will carry it.
- Bend Your Knees: A common mistake is to bend over from your waist and lift straight up. Instead, you want to bend your knees to lower yourself to the object. This way, when you rise up with the object, you are lifting with your legs instead of your lower back muscles.
- Tuck in Arms and Elbows: Keeping your arms and elbows close to your body instead of extending them helps you to balance and carry the load properly. If you have to extend your arms to carry an object, always ask for help.
- Carefully Change Direction: Twisting your body to change direction while carrying a heavy load will hurt your back. Instead, use your feet to change direction. Or, set down the object, change direction, and then pick it up again to move forward down the new path.
- Place the Object: Set down the object the same way that you picked it up, by bending at your knees. If you need to place the object on the top of a shelf or other elevated surface, put the edge of the load on the surface and slide it into position.
Remember that training and practice are needed when it comes to safely lifting heavy objects. It is important to work with your team to make sure the understand how to avoid lower back injuries by safely lifting loads that could otherwise hurt them. Additionally, encourage team lifting if one person is unable to move something by themselves.