The advocacy group blames excessive lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, or carrying as the main causes of the injuries. In the workplace, they are seen mostly in the form of back injuries, especially among workers involved in labor, moving, truck driving, and nursing.
Overexertion results from sprains and strains, according to the council. The council and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommend a multidimensional approach to prevent these injuries, including administrative and engineering controls and worker training.
Employers are encouraged to implement the following administrative controls:
- Plan the workflow to avoid unnecessary lifts or minimize the distance a load must be carried.
- Tag all heavy or unstable loads. Reduce the weight by putting fewer items in a container or using smaller or lighter-weight containers.
- Pack containers so the weight is evenly distributed.
- Position pallet loads at heights that allow workers to lift from their power zone -- above the knees, below the shoulders, and close to the body. Avoid storing materials on the floor, if possible.
- Rotate workers between lifting and non-lifting tasks. Also, allow periodic breaks to ensure workers have adequate rest.
Employers can also provide engineering controls. For example, assistive devices for pulling, reaching, carrying, and lifting can minimize risks. A strong safety culture can encourage managers to put safety ahead of getting the job done quickly.
Workers who receive hands-on training may be less prone to injuries, the council says. An instructor can watch the worker and provide advice when an activity is done incorrectly.
Workers should also be trained to:
- Use mechanical lift devices whenever available.
- Check a load for stability and weight before lifting.
- Lift only as much as the worker can safely handle on his own. Make several trips carrying lighter weight, if necessary.
- Use the legs to lift rather than the back or upper body.
- Use smooth, even motions to avoid jerking.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 1, 2011
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