Lifting heavy objects is one of the principal causes of shoulder, back and spine pain. For most every job in construction, manufacturing, warehouse work, agriculture labor, the trucking industry, or any manual labor job – heavy lifting is part of the job requirement. Lifting can include boxes, inventory, materials, equipment, furniture, and any item that helps create or sell products.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over a third of workplace injuries that required that the employee miss time from work were due to back or shoulder injuries. Lifting injuries generally occur due to overexertion and cumulative trauma. Lifting injuries can also include elbow and wrist injuries, muscle pulls and strains, and spinal cord damage,
There are many factors that increase the likelihood of lifting injuries. Employers should have practices and procedures in place to minimize these factors and help the workers.
- The weight of the objects. Generally, loads that weigh more than 50 pounds should be avoided.
Some objects put more stress on the worker than others. Heavy tools and machinery, large wire spools, and bundles of conduit should be handled with extreme caution.
Some of the practices and procedures employers should use to help with heavy objects are:
- Use mechanical devices such as fork lifts, transformers, and duct lifts.
- Pallet jacks and hand trucks should be used when possible
- Avoid things that roll because they can be hard to stop
- Suction devices can help to lift boxes and other objects that have a flat surface
- Machinery can be loaded into vehicles with the use of a ramp
- Lifting should be done properly. Heavy objects should be positioned at “power zone” level – between the chest and mid-thighs. The spine should be properly aligned when lifting. Bend at the knees and not the wait when lifting.
- Try ordering supplies in smaller amounts. Ask the vendors to reduce the weight of the objects they supply prior to the delivery.
- Use mechanical lifts for prefabricated items.
- Use two or more people if the weight of the object is more than 50 pounds.
- Awkward postures. Lifting injuries often happen or are worsened because the lifter is bending incorrectly. Employees who bend while lifting force the back to support both the employee’s upper body weight and the weight of the object they’re lifting. The bending can cause as much pain as the lifting.
Bending also shifts the object being loaded away from the employee’s body making leverage more difficult and making the back and lower spine work harder. Reaching puts more strain on the shoulders.
- The area around the load site should be clear so the employee can get the proper leverage to transport the load.
- Employers should not carry a load on a shoulder, under their arm, or using one hand.
- Lift with your legs
- Move the object close to you when lifting.
- Position the object in the “power zone’ mentioned above before beginning the lift. Lifting outside of the power zone puts stress on the back, legs, and knees if you are lifting from below the mid-thigh. Stress is placed on the shoulders, upper back, and arms when lifting from above the chest.
- Put items on shelves, tables, or other surfaces so you don’t have to bend or reach when starting the lift.
- Better to turn the feet than to turn the torso
- Keep your elbows close to your body to avoid reaching
- Use aerial lifts when possible to elevate the worker and position the worker closer to the object being lifted
- Carry small loads in each hand to help balance the load.
- Use buckets and other objects that have handles to help carry the load
- High-Frequency and Long-Duration Lifting. Holding objects for too long a time period, even if the objects don’t weight too much, increases the possibility of back or shoulder injury because muscles may not get the nutrients then need. Repeated exertions, for example if the worker is pulling wire, can tire the muscles because the time to recuperate the muscle is limited.
- Use a lightweight template (cardboard for example) to mark the holes where drilling will take place especially when mounting items like junction boxes and service panels. This helps reduce the time the heavy object needs to be held while the worker finds the right level and the right anchor mounts.
- Use mechanical lifting devices or stands to hold the heavy and awkward objects
- Rotate the lifting and holding tasks among employees.
- Work in teams so that one person lifts while the other person does the assembly
- Take schedule breaks to give the muscles time to rest. Rest breaks increase the quality of work because the employee isn’t working while tired.
- Try to pre-assemble objects where possible
- Inadequate Handholds. If objects are too hard to hold, they are tougher to lift. Workers then need to move away from the load and lower the point where the lift begins. This raises the danger of body stress and also of dropping the object.
- Use proper handhold such as handles, slots or holes. The handles should be large enough for an employee who is wearing gloves.
- Ask the vendors to make containers with adequate handholds
- Move items from containers that don’t have handholds to ones that do have handholds
- Wear equipment such as gloves to protect the fingers. Solid grips should be provided
- Use suction devices
Employers should also be aware that excessive cold or excessive heat can make lifting harder. Cold decreases muscle flexibility. Heat can cause dehydration and fatigue. The area where the lifting is taking place should be well lit. Warm clothing should be worn if the weather is cold. Workers should drink a lot of water when it’s hot to avoid dehydration.
Speak with a highly qualified work injury lawyer if pain is preventing you from working
Pain from lifting is a complicated workers’ compensation issues because North Carolina and Virginia work injury claims generally require a showing that an accident caused the injury. The defense lawyer may argue that the pain existed before you started working. For strong advocacy and experienced legal work injury advice, please phone lawyer Joe Miller. He has been getting just recoveries for injured employees in both North Carolina and Virginia for over 25 years. To make an appointment, please call us at (888) 694-1671 or complete the contact form.