Your back is an important muscle in your body. It has a level of strength and flexibility to carry you through your day that is phenomenal – however, because of this, it is also susceptible to problems.
When you develop problems in your lower back, this can extend to your legs and hips, so protecting your back is important. Many find they suffer from back pain in the workplace through sitting at a desk for long periods of time, heavy lifting, or driving, but there are many things that could be done to help you prevent injury or pain. Manually lifting is the leading cause of back pain. As with any work activity, preparation goes a long way. A properly planned lift will help to ensure that it is done safely. The process of a safe lift is broken down into three stages; lifting, carrying, and setting down. Here are a few important things to remember next time you have to lift an object.
- Use mechanical means (e.g. hand trucks, pushcarts, etc.) when possible for heavier or awkward loads. Remember to obtain training and authorization before using a forklift.
- It is easier and safer to push than to pull.
- Keep loads as close to the body as possible and do not twist while lifting, carrying, or setting down a load. Nose, shoulders, hips, and toes should all be facing the same direction.
- Minimize reaching.
- As a general rule, bend at the knees, not the hips.
- Get help when needed. Do not lift or carry things you don’t feel comfortable with, no matter how light the load.
- Plan ahead for all parts of the lift: lifting, carrying, and setting down.
- Try to utilize proper handholds while lifting. If an item does not have a good handhold, think of ways to remedy this, such as placing the item in a container with good handholds, creating a safe and proper handhold with an appropriate tool, etc.
- Use personal protective equipment where needed, such as gloves with good grip and steel-toed boots where appropriate.
- Place items to be lifted within the “power zone”. The power zone is close to the body, between the mid-thigh and mid-chest of the person doing the lifting. This is the area where the arms and back can lift the most with the least amount of effort.