Health and safety

Reduce fatigue and injuries with safe lifting techniques

October 22, 2021

Did you know that you have something in common with an Olympic weightlifter when it comes to safe lifting in the workplace? Sure, you may not have trained your body for years to lift a massive amount of weight, wear a lifting belt, knee sleeves, lifting shoes, or use lifting straps, but you are equal when it comes to the most crucial factor: technique.

Safe lifting plays an essential role in protecting you in the workplace. It helps avoid permanent or long-term consequences that not only can affect your ability to do your job but can have a devastating impact on your personal life. Most workplace injuries due to improper lifting techniques occur when trying to move heavy or large objects, so you might think you’re off the hook if you work in an office setting—but that’s not necessarily the case.

Not just what you carry, but how you carry

It’s not always what you carry, but how you carry that makes a difference. While work involving consistent manual labour, such as construction, warehouse, or factory-related roles, are at higher risk, workplace injuries can and do happen to workers in all industries and in any situation.

The most recent statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada show that in 2019 there were 271,806 accepted claims (an increase from 264,438 the previous year) for lost time due to a work-related injury or disease, including 33,615 from workers aged 15 to 24.

Because these statistics only include injuries reported and accepted by the compensation boards, the total number of workers affected by injuries on the job is likely to be greater.

According to the By the Numbers: 2019 Statistical Report, 44 percent of workplace injuries were due to sprains and falls, 17 percent were falls on the same level, and 15 percent were injuries to the lower back. The costs of these injuries totalled nearly $3M in paid benefits.

It’s also key to remember that improper lifting techniques can cause unfortunate slip and fall accidents in the workplace, which can lead to serious injury. To learn more about making your workplace safe by identifying risks and hazards, you can download our Accident Prevention Guide at the end of this blog.

Just like an Olympic weightlifter needs effective coaching to achieve great results safely, you and your employer are responsible for ensuring steps are taken to reduce risks around lifting in the workplace. With proper training, your chance of potential injury is dramatically lower.

Don’t overdo it with ‘pace of work’

Also coming into play is what is referred to as ‘pace of work.’ The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety shows when strictly imposed by management, the pace of work may significantly contribute to a worker’s discomfort and, consequently, the onset of musculoskeletal injuries.

The pressure to work at a specific pace creates the mindset that work needs to be done immediately—no time to rest. In turn, this belief creates pressure mentally and physically, causing muscle tension and fatigue, leaving workers more prone to injury when more lifting is needed.

The pace of work may be related to the frequency of a lift, so the more lifting a job requires at this increased pace, the quicker the impact on the worker’s physical and mental well-being.

It’s about getting back to the basics

This repeated heavy lifting or sudden awkward movement can cause strain to back muscles and spinal ligaments. As a result, workers need to focus on the basics—such as bent legs, having the load close to the body, and always keeping a straight back—and understand what they’re carrying and where they’re carrying it to.

Some easy-to-follow techniques you’ll learn about from our Safe Lifting Animated Training include:

  • Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other.
  • If you need to squat down, bend at the hips and knees only. If needed, place one knee on the floor and your other knee in front of you, like a half-kneel.
  • Make sure you have good posture by looking straight ahead, keeping your back straight, chest out, and shoulders back. This helps keep your upper back straight while having a slight arch in your lower back.
  • Lift slowly by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Remember not to twist as you lift.
  • Keep the load as close to your body as possible, around your belly button.
  • Remember to use your feet to change direction by taking small steps. Don’t twist!
  • Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.
  • When putting the item down, reverse the process and squat with the knees and hips only.

A single workplace accident can have a tremendous impact on a business, from workers’ compensation concerns and lost productivity to low morale around safety concerns and increased staffing costs.

Let HRdownloads help you work towards avoiding an injury from happening in your workplace. Start by checking our latest Safe Lifting Training animated course. Not only will workers learn the correct lifting and carrying techniques, and understand the risks and considerations around proper lifting, but, most importantly, they will stay safe. To learn more about making your workplace safe by identifying risks and hazards, you can download our FREE Accident Prevention Guide.

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