Lifting or moving heavy objects such as shrubs, cement blocks, or bags of fertilizer can result in injuries to your back, shoulders, knees, and other body parts. The resulting injuries can be painful, long-lasting, and costly. Proper lifting techniques are important. With the help of OSHA and the Professional Landcare Network, here are some lifting safety tips:
- Know your limits: Set a maximum weight that’ll be a safe and comfortable lifting limit for you. Anything above it requires additional help.
- Get some mechanical help: Encourage the use of lifting devices such as a fork lift, dolly, or pallet jack whenever possible. And if something needs to be taken from one end of the building to the other, use a cart to make the move easier.
- Take a break: Alternate between lifting and non-lifting tasks.
Asking for help is an important step, and that goes for your customers, as well. Post signs letting customers know staff can assist with any lifting needs, and stress to your employees they are to assist customers in lifting items whenever possible.
Proper lifting techniques
One of the biggest lifting safety tips is using proper technique. Twisting your back or simply leaning over and not bending your knees are some of the biggest causes of lifting injuries. Here are some proper lifting techniques, also courtesy of OSHA and the Professional Landcare Network:
- Wear footwear with nonslip soles
- Get a firm footing, then part your feet with one foot slightly in front of the other
- Keep the load close to your body and directly in front of you
- Keep your back as straight as possible, bend with your knees, and lift with your legs
- Secure a good grip on the object, using handles when available
- Lift in a smooth, controlled manner
- Avoid lifting loads higher than your chest
How heavy is too heavy?
When it comes to heavy objects, how much is too much? Sometimes, you want a defined weight limit that instructs you when to not even try lifting something. But the answer isn’t always that easy.
Weight alone doesn’t determine the risk for a back injury. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, other factors include:
- How often you’re lifting something
- Bending and twisting while lifting
- How high you’re lifting an object
- Whether you hold an object away from you while lifting
- How long you lift or hold the object
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has created a lifting equation to set a recommended weight limit for one person under different conditions. The NIOSH lifting equation establishes a maximum load of 51 pounds, which is then adjusted to account for the five factors listed above. Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries has developed an app for analyzing lifting tasks based on the NIOSH equation. You can download it here.
All these tips are helpful in preventing injuries, but they won’t do any good for your employees if they aren’t aware of them. You need to make workplace safety a priority, and that includes incorporating safe lifting campaign (courtesy of OSHA):
- Provide management support: A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of any safety initiative. Management should define clear goals and objectives, discuss them with employees, assign responsibilities to designated staff members, and communicate clearly.
- Involve workers: Take a participatory approach, where workers are involved in proper lifting education and discussion.
- Provide training: Training is an important element. It ensures workers are aware of proper lifting and its benefits, become informed about lifting-related concerns in the workplace, and understand the importance of reporting any injuries.
- Identify problems: An important step in the process is to identify and assess possible lifting concerns in the workplace.
Injuries from lifting and bending are sometimes looked at as a cost of doing business. After all, many of the jobs within our industry require manual labor and with that come increased exposure and risk to these types of injuries. But let’s not be so quick to just pass these types of injuries off as the norm and there’s nothing we can do about them.
Follow the tips provided above, and remember the most important element—if you need help, get some. For further resources on lifting safety, contact your Hortica agent.