Manual handling causes over third of all workplace injuries, and if your job frequently requires you to lift, pull, push, hold or restrain heavy objects or equipment, you may be at risk.
However, heavy manual labor is not the only risk factor; manual handling injuries can also occur as a result of awkward postures or repetitive movements of the arms, legs and back.
With this in mind, it is important to identify any possible risks that may be present in your workplace, and take safety precautions to prevent injuries from occurring.
Here are five things to keep in mind when manual handling:
1. Maintain good posture at all times
Maintaining good posture is important whether you are sitting at your desk, waiting in line or lifting something heavy. Keeping your spine straight will protect your muscles, organs, make breathing easier and increase your energy.
Here are a few tips for maintaining good posture during different activities:
While seated at your desk, make an effort to sit up straight with your shoulders pulled back. Keep your legs at 90-degree angle to your body in order to support your back. When you are seated correctly your neck, back and heels should be in alignment.
When standing or walking, keep your head up with your chin slightly tucked in rather than pointing outwards. Your shoulders should be back, your chest should be forward and your stomach should be pulled in. Also, remember to place your weight on the ball of your feel instead of your heels or toes.
When stooping to lift something from a low shelf or off the ground, bend at the knees rather than at the waist so that your back stays straight. Use your legs to do the lifting and resist the urge to lean forward. Don’t forget to use your Back Support Belt
2. Lift and carry loads correctly
If you have to lift or carry a heavy load, it is important to follow the right protocol. This includes warming up your muscles with a few gentle stretches before engaging in any manual labor and keeping any objects you are carrying close to the body and lifting with your thigh muscles as opposed to your back.
Always assess whether or not a load can be broken down into smaller and lighter components that will be easier to lift. If you can, push rather than pull the load, as this will put less stress on your body.
Before lifting, adopt a stable position and keep your feet apart while placing one leg forwards in order to maintain your balance. Make sure you have a good grip before you start lifting, and avoid twisting your back or leaning to the side while your back is bent.
3. Use mechanical aids whenever possible
When you have a choice between carrying something yourself or using a mechanical aid such as a wheelbarrow, cart or conveyor belt, you should always choose the mechanical aid, even if you feel capable of lifting the object on your own.
This prevents you from putting an unnecessary strain on your back and means that when you do need to lift something on your own you won’t be worn out. Remember; there is a difference between what you can lift and what you can lift safely.
4. Change the nature of the work
Although this may not always be possible, you should look for opportunities to change the nature of the work you are doing from time to time. Alternating between different tasks throughout the day ensures that you are not carrying out the same movements repeatedly, or overworking certain muscle groups.
For example, if you are unloading boxes from a pallet and your colleague is taking inventory or unpacking the boxes, make a point of trading tasks every so often to give your muscles a break and avoid putting stress on your back.
5. Take frequent breaks
Whether you are sitting at your desk for a prolonged amount of time, lifting and carrying objects or carrying out a task that is repetitive in nature, such as packaging or assembling items, it is important that you take frequent breaks in order to stretch and loosen your muscles and recuperate your strength.