several boxes stacked up

Look for these injury risk factors and take steps to make your workplace safer.

Sprains, strains, and pains are common occurrences in many workplaces – and are often caused by lifting. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, overexertion injuries from lifting, carrying, and related activities are the leading cause of work-related injuries involving days away from work.

Sure, there are times when lifting is the only way to move an item from Point A to Point B – but did you know there are some simple rules your organization can follow to make lifting safer for your workers? Keep in mind these five tips and you’ll be on your way to a safer workplace

  1. The safest lift is the one that’s never made. Although most lifts don’t cause injury, repeated strain on the body from lifting takes a toll. Over time, repetitive actions can contribute to reduced work quality and productivity so that even low-weight lifts repeated frequently can cause fatigue, injury and pain. Every lifting and carrying task eliminated through automation, good work design, material handling aids and other methods reduces the chances of a lifting injury.
  1. The force is against you. The more weight involved in the lift, the more risk. So, just how much force is too much? Various studies aim to answer that question, but the prevailing advice is that less force is always better. In general, lifts involving more than 70 pounds are considered unsafe under any circumstances and should be avoided.
  1. Keep it in the strike zone. The safest lifts occur between the shoulders and the knees – which baseball fans will recognize as the “strike zone.” Getting items off the ground and out of overhead areas is a quick way to reduce the amount of lifting risk. Presenting items at waist level is ideal.
  1. Elbows at the sides. The further the load is held away from the body, the greater the chances of an injury. Design lifts that allow the load to be held as close as possible to the torso. If the elbows aren’t touching the torso, the load is too far away.
  1. Don’t do the twist. Twisting while lifting places additional forces on the lower back and should be avoided. Remind employees to “align their nose and their toes.” If there’s no way to avoid a turning lift, keeping the nose and toes aligned by turning the feet – not only the waist – can make it a safer lift.

The next time you see someone lifting, look for these injury risk factors and uncover ways to reduce or eliminate them. Don’t worry if you can’t apply all five rules at once – each area you improve makes the workplace safer and more productive. Need more ideas? Check out these resources to get started.

  1. Ergonomics Screening Tool
  2. Lifting safety
  3. Manual material handling
Subscribe to our newsletter for timely content in your inbox