Almost every employee working for a restoration company will do some sort of manual material handling. What many restoration contractors don’t think about is the likelihood of lower back injuries due to the awkward postures and repetitive movements involved. However, with some precaution many of these potential injuries can be avoided.
Preventing Back Injures
There are a number ways restoration contractors can help prevent back injuries to their employees:
Workflow Adjustments. Poor planning can often result in needless and repeated handling of the same object.
Eliminate Heavy Materials Handling. Consider using powered or mechanical handling systems as much as possible. Lift tables, conveyors, yokes and trucks can provide significant assistance as well.
Decrease Material Handling Demands. Reduce weight whenever possible by assigning two people to split the load. Whenever possible, pull and push objects rather than lift as it will decrease the strain on your back. Additionally, we recommend alternating heavy tasks with light ones to reduce fatigue and strain.
Reduce Stressful Body Movements. Whenever possible, try to avoid performing tasks with excessive bending and twisting. We also recommend eliminating deep shelves to avoid bending, use slings and hooks to move loads, use rigid containers, and balance the contents of containers.
Improving the Work Environment
The design of the work environment is an important element to preventing back injuries.
Wear properly designed clothing to decrease the heat absorption by the body and to increase evaporation. This is particularly important for people required to work in high temperature environment.
Encourage using proper protective clothing for people working in a cold environment. This is essential to protect the worker from hypothermia and to preserve dexterity needed for safe work.
Use angular lighting and color contrast to improve depth perception. This helps the worker climbing stairs or moving in passageways.
Does training reduce back injuries?
There is little evidence to indicate that training alone reduces the number of material handling back injuries. When combined with work design, training is an important element in the prevention of injuries. Proper training also shows the worker how to actively contribute to the prevention of injuries.
Instruction on how to lift “properly” is the most controversial issue concerning training in material handling. There is no single correct way to lift because lifting can always be done in several ways. Because of this, on-site, task specific training is essential. In fact, it is sometimes safer to allow the worker to use common sense acquired by experience rather than to force new biomechanically correct procedures. But there are some general lifting rules.
Prepare to lift by warming up the muscles.
Stand close to the load, facing the way you intend to move.
Use a wide stance to gain balance.
Ensure a good grip on the load.
Keep arms straight.
Tighten abdominal muscles.
Tuck chin into the chest.
Initiate the lift with body weight.
Lift the load close to the body.
Lift smoothly without jerking.
Avoid twisting and side bending while lifting.
Do not lift if you are not convinced that you can handle the load safely.