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Safety Tips: Back Injury Prevention

Back Injury Prevention

Did You Know?  Back injuries account for 1 in 5 workplace accidents.  Lifting heavy items is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace. When employees use smart lifting practices they are less likely to suffer from back sprains, muscle pulls, wrist injuries, elbow injuries, penal injuries and other injuries caused by lifting heavy objects.   The best way to prevent back injuries is to develop habits that reduce the strain placed on your back. 

As always at United, safety is our top priority!  We want our team to return to work the same way you left.  Please stay safe!

These are some basic things you can do to help prevent an injury:


Proper Lifting Procedures:
  1. Take a balanced stance with your feet about a shoulder-width apart. One foot can be behind the object and the other next to it.
  2. Squat down to lift the object, keeping your heels off the floor. Get as close to the object as you can.
  3. Use your palms to get a secure grip on the load, making sure you’ll be able to maintain a hold on the object without having to switch your grip later.
  4. Lift gradually using your legs, abdominal and buttock muscles and keep the load as close to you as possible. Keep your chin tucked in so as to keep a relatively straight back and neckline.
  5. Once you’re standing, change directions by pointing your feet in the direction you want to go and turn your whole body. Avoid twisting at your waist while carrying.
  6. When you put a load down, use these same guidelines, in reverse.

Avoid Lifting and Bending Whenever Possible:
  • Anytime you can spare your back the stress and strain of lifting and bending, do so!
  • Place objects up off the floor: If you can set something down on a table or other elevated surface instead of the floor, do it so you won’t have to reach down to pick it up again.
  • Raise/lower shelves: The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and your waist.  Put heavier objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on lower or higher shelves.
  • Use carts/dollies, when available, to move objects instead of carrying them yourself.
  • Use cranes, hoists, lift tables and other lift-assist devices whenever you can.

Safety Work Practices and Tips:
  • Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds will increase the risk of injury.
  • Some loads, such large spools of wire, heavy tools and machinery place great stress on muscles, discs, and vertebrae. Use pallet jacks and hand trucks to transport heavy items.
  • Materials that must be manually lifted should be placed at “power zone” height, about mid-thigh to mid-chest.
  • Make sure proper lifting technique is used. (See Above)
  • Maintain neutral and straight spine alignment whenever possible.
  • Bending at knees, not at the waist, helps maintain proper spine alignment.
  • Rotate tasks so employees are not exposed to the same activity for long periods of time.
  • Utilize proper handholds, including handles, slots or holes, with enough room to accommodate gloved hands.
  • Wear proper PPE to avoid finger injuries and contact stress.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.

At-Risk Behaviors to Avoid:
  • Carrying loads on one shoulder, under an arm, or in one hand, creates uneven pressure on the spine.
  • Reaching moves the load away from the back and places considerable strain on the shoulders.
  • Holding items for a long period of time increases the risk of back and shoulder injury.
  • Cold temperatures can cause muscle pulls.

Interesting Sites with Additional Information and Tips:

Safety Toolbox Topics: Back Injury Prevention Techniques

OSHA: Back Injury Prevention Training Guide (PDF)

Grainger QuickTips: Proper Lifting Techniques


Sources of Tips and Information in this Post:

OSHA – Materials Handling: Heavy Lifting 

Oklahoma State EHS Safety Training: Back Safety

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