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Avoiding Lifting Injuries at Work

Many occupations require workers to move heavy objects. Tasks associated with industries such as warehousing, manufacturing, and other fields place a toll on a worker’s body. Employers are required to properly train employees in safe practices that can be used to reduce the strain on areas such as the lower back and to provide the proper equipment to use when lifting. The amount of weight that a worker can safely lift will vary according to his or her own weight and abilities, but it is generally recommended that workers refrain from bodily lifting more than 50 pounds. Employers are also required to make sure workers have the equipment required to lift heavy objects.

Items that can aid in lifting heavy objects include:

  • Ramps
  • Lift gates
  • Forklifts
  • Pallet jackets
  • Hand trucks
  • And more

When workers are not properly trained on how to lift, are asked to lift objects that are too heavy to handle safely, or are not provided with the right equipment, they can be seriously injured.

Causes of Lifting Injuries at Work

Warehouse workers, nursing home employees, hospital staff, custodians, factory workers, and restaurant workers are at a higher risk of lifting injuries at work than other types of employees. They may be required to lift objects or people (in the case of nursing home and hospital staff), and this can lead to strain and injury if it is not done properly. 

The following are the most common causes of lifting injuries at work:

  • Repeated lifting of heavy objects
  • Dropping objects while lifting or moving them
  • Lack of training on proper lifting techniques
  • Lack of equipment to aid in lifting, moving, or holding heavy objects

Broken toes from dropped objects, back strain from lifting objects over 50 pounds, and spinal cord trauma from constant lifting are all potential risks.

What Lift Injuries Can Occur at Work?

When an object must be lifted manually, there are certain steps that can decrease the strain on the body. Employers must train employees in proper lifting techniques, such as keeping the spine straight and lifting from the knees rather than the back. Additionally, employers must ensure that multiple workers are available to safely lift an object if it weighs too much for one person to safely move.

Work injuries resulting from strenuous lifting can include:

  • Back injuries
  • Fractures
  • Herniated cervical discs
  • Knee injuries
  • Soft tissue tears
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Wrist injuries
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Hernias
  • Neck injuries
  • Pinched or damaged nerves

Long-duration lifting can also be dangerous for workers. Even if objects are somewhat lighter or more manageable, if a worker must hold or lift them for long periods of time, or lift them over and over again, this can cause lift injuries that make it difficult to work or even perform normal, day-to-day activities.

Manual Material Handling & Work-Related Lift Injuries

According to the CDC, manual material handling is one of the leading causes of work injuries in the U.S. It is a contributing factor in more than 500,000 musculoskeletal disorder claims in the United States. Manual material handling includes heavy lifting, repeated lifting, and the handling of objects. This might include holding, grasping, turning, and maneuvering objects. 

How to Lift Safely: Posture Matters

Heavy lifting does not have to cause injury to a worker—if they are properly trained and have the right equipment to help. 

Proper posture and positioning are crucial to avoid lifting injuries at work. This may include:

  • Holding items as close to your body as possible
  • Keeping your elbows close to your body
  • Bending at the knees, not at the waist
  • Keeping your back straight and aligned
  • Never twisting or turning while lifting

When proper posture is used along with ramps, straps, suction devices, lift gates, and other equipment, workers can be protected from unnecessary strain and harm.

Does OSHA Have Rules for Lifting Heavy Objects?

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have legal limits in place regarding how much weight an employee can be asked to move, employers must take steps to ensure that workers suffer the minimum possible strain. For example, an employer who demands that workers perform tasks that are known to be unsafe—such as lifting objects that are too heavy without providing the proper lifting equipment—could be held liable for resulting injuries.

If you have suffered short- or long-term injuries due to unsafe lifting practices at your workplace, you may be entitled to compensation. The attorneys of Arnold & Itkin have helped workers in a wide range of fields assess the damages that have been inflicted on them through negligent work standards and hold their employers responsible.

Contact us today for a free consultation at (888) 493-1629.

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