Back injuries account for about one in every five job-related injuries in California workplaces. Disabling back injuries are no laughing matter for workers who lose time from work or from personal activities. The sad truth is that most of the pain and lost time can be prevented if you are aware of how the back functions and how to lift safely to protect your back.
The back is a network of fragile ligaments, discs, and muscles which can easily be thrown out of order. The back’s complex design breaks down when it is forced to perform activities it was not designed to do. Lifting with the back twisted or bent just begs for a pulled muscle or ruptured disc. One sure way to risk injuring the back is to lift heavy or bulky loads improperly or unassisted. Never be afraid to ask for help with loads that you know you cannot lift safely. Lift with good sense and a little extra help from a coworker or mechanical aid when necessary.
If you decide you are capable of lifting a light load, make sure you lift correctly.
- Move in so that your feet are close to the base of the object to be lifted.
- Face the object squarely. Bend your knees and squat over the item to be lifted. In this position, the back gets added lifting strength and power from the legs and arms.
- Move up close to the item, because the backbone must act as a supporting column, and it takes the least strain close in.
- Tilt the item on edge with its long axis straight up so that the center of the weight is as high as possible above the ground.
- Still squatting, the feet should be set with legs pointed right at the load, with the back straightened, the worker may then grasp the load with both arms and slowly stand up with it, pushing up with the leg muscles. If you cannot lift slowly, you cannot lift safely.
A good way to learn the right from the wrong way to lift is to practice lifting correctly a few times. You will notice that the correct way to lift is the easiest way to lift the load, with the least strain and awkwardness. To lift the wrong way will, over time, cause injury and pain. The back can be damaged quickly but can take a long time to heal.