Some Manual Handling Techniques to Avoid Injury in the Workplace
Manual handling is one of the biggest causes of workplace-related injuries. What’s even worse is that manual handling uses various parts of the body: the neck and shoulders; wrists, arms, and hands; as well as the back, hips, and legs can all be affected. This means that even a small injury can cause great discomfort and affect one’s quality of work.
As such, it’s vital to provide proper health and safety training not only to prevent accidents but also so that people will know what to do if such an incident should happen. Proper planning is also essential when you or anyone in the workplace needs to lift something manually. Some things to consider are the following:
- what is the object to be handled
- how much does the object weigh
- is the object bulky, irregularly sized, or inside a container
- can the load be carried separately (e.g., a modular table can be disassembled)
- how far do you need to move the object
- are there any hazards along the way
For the actual handling, below are some tips and techniques to remember:
If you’re going to lift something, you need to be as close to it as possible so you can give it a firm grip. If you can, hug it instead of holding it. In addition, it’s also best to keep the load close to your waist and the heaviest side of the load next to your body.
In situations where you cannot physically get close to the object you need to lift, it’s best to pull it closer to you first before attempting to handle it.
Stabilise Your Position
To keep yourself stable while attempting to lift and carrying a load, keep your feet apart with one leg in front of the other. Place the forward leg alongside the object if the object is on the ground. Then, adjust your feet accordingly to keep them shoulder-width apart as you lift the object. You should also try to keep your elbows in line with your knees and your arms long.
Another good tip for manual handling? Wear loose or at least comfortable-fitting clothing and suitable footwear. If you wear tight clothes and shoes, you might not be able to move the way you want.
Butt Down, Chest Up
As the medical experts say, lift with your legs and not your back. To do this, keep your butt down when attempting to do the lift. Also, keep your chest up so that the lumbar region is in the proper position to protect your back.
Slightly bend your back, hops, and knees if you have to at the start of the lift. Don’t try to fully flex your back or hips in a full squat to minimise the risk of injury.
Did you know that proper breathing can actually help you lift things properly? By breathing out as you lift, you can lessen the strain on your back caused by the excess weight.
Point Your Feet Towards the Right Direction
In case you need to change directions while moving, don’t twist your back or lean sideways. Instead, move your feet towards the load before moving your body so that your nose always follows your toes. Make sure to also keep your shoulders level and that they’re facing the same direction as your hips.
By moving your feet to make a turn, you’ll minimise twisting (which can hurt your spine). As a last tip, keep your head up and look ahead while you’re carrying heavy loads. This will help lessen the pressure on the cervical spine, the part of the spinal column on your neck.
Ask For Help
If you’ve determined that you’re unable to handle the object’s weight on your own, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Even if you can lift it, the weight might not be safe. Just imagine a vehicle loaded with heavy cargo, with tyres that are not rated with the correct capacity. At the very least, the tyres will flatten while driving; at worst, the tyres might burst. Now imagine that happening to your body.
You should also stop and put down the weight in case you need to readjust. Don’t try to change positions while handling heavy objects; you may end up dropping the package and cause even worse accidents or injuries.
Stretch Before and After
Last but certainly not least, make sure to stretch your muscles before and after you perform any manual handling. Doing so prevents your body from getting “shocked” by the sudden strenuous activity.
Some of the most helpful stretches include back stretches, shoulder stretches, knee stretches, hamstring stretches. These are the parts of the body that see the most action when doing lifts, so it’s only logical to condition them to avoid injuries.
Both theoretical and practical training are essential so that everyone in the workplace is properly aware of the risks and how to safely conduct manual handling tasks. These above-mentioned tips are good to know, but they won’t be useful if they aren’t correctly practised.
Aside from training, there should also be regular review of procedures. This way, you can continuously refresh your staff’s knowledge and make adjustments where needed.