9 health and safety steps to prevent lift injuries

This Olympic season we all cheered our team on as they risked life and limb to win gold, silver and bronze – but they shouldn’t be alone in this effort. Canadian workers and employers can help the economy save billions of dollars by reducing time loss issues from simple but preventable back injuries.

In 2012, Canadian businesses reported 245,365 time-loss injuries and 977 people lost their lives on the job. In British Columbia, injuries resulted in 2.9 million days lost from work. Time loss injuries affect everyone. It impacts the Canadian economy, our healthcare system, in some cases pushing people into disability programs, and affects the cost of insurance.

The most common of all workplace injuries are lifting-related back injuries. We lift things that we shouldn’t, to places we can’t reach and with techniques that almost guarantee injuries. It isn't just manufacturing or construction jobs, but health care, office work and childcare. Back injuries happen to everyone, everywhere and all of the time.

health and safety tips lifting

follow safe lifting procedures

keep the load close to your waist

Keep the load close to yourself for as long as possible while lifting. Keep the heaviest side of the load next to you.

adopt a stable position

Your feet should be apart with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance (alongside the load, if it is on the ground). You should be prepared to move their feet during the lift to maintain their stability. Avoid tight clothing or unsuitable footwear, which may make this difficult.

get a good grip 

Wherever possible, the load should be hugged as close as possible to your body. This is better than only holding it with your hands. Hugging it, bring the weight closer to your centre of gravity, further reducing risk.

start in a good posture

At the start of the lift, keep a slight bend in your back, hips and knees. This is referred to fully flexing your back (stooping) or fully flexing the hips and knees (squatting).

avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways

This is especially true while your back is bent. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips. Use your feet to turn yourself rather than twisting and lifting at the same time.

keep your head up when handling

Look ahead, not down at the load, once it has been held securely. This will ensure you're able to keep an eye on any obstacles in your way as you're walking. Also avoid carrying so much that you can't see in front of yourself.

move smoothly

The load should not be jerked or snatched as this can make it harder to keep control and can increase the risk of injury.

don’t lift more than you can manage

There's a difference between what people can lift and what they can safely lift. If in doubt, seek advice or get help. What is a struggle for one, can be an ease for two. Or if you don't have anyone to lend a hand, take two trips. It's better to lighten your load and stay safe. 

put the load down, then adjust

If more precise positioning is necessary, put it down first, then slide it into the desired position, rather than trying to jostle it while you're carrying it.

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