The Heavy Lifting: Best Practices to Avoid Injury

liftingBack sprains, muscle pulls, wrist and elbow injuries are all common injuries for workers who must lift heavy items on construction sites. A single overexertion or cumulative, repeated motion both have the potential to cause serious injury. OSHA provides specific guidelines for proper lifting practices, including the following:

  • Materials that must be manually lifted should be placed at “power zone” height, about mid-thigh to mid-chest. The power zone for lifting is close to the body, between mid-thigh and mid-chest height. Comparable to the strike zone in baseball, this zone is where arms and back can lift the most with the least amount of effort. Bending at the knees, not the waist, helps maintain proper spine alignment.
  • Limit weight to lift to no more than 50 pounds. When lifting loads heavier than 50 pounds, use two or more people to lift the load.
  • Use mechanical means such as forklifts or duct lifts to lift heavy spools, transformers, switch gear, service sections, conduit, and machinery.
  • Use pallet jacks and hand trucks to transport heavy items.
  • Avoid rolling spools. Once they are in motion, it is difficult to stop them.
  • Use suction devices to lift junction boxes and other materials with smooth, flat surfaces. These tools place a temporary handle that makes lifting easier.
  • Use ramps or lift gates to load machinery into trucks rather than lifting it.
  • Order supplies in smaller quantities and break down loads off-site. When possible, request that vendors and suppliers break down loads prior to delivery.
  • Prefabricate items in a central area where mechanical lifts can be used. Only transport smaller, finished products to the site.
  • Work with suppliers to make smaller, lighter containers.
  • Rotate tasks so employees are not exposed to the same activity for too long.
  • Work in teams; one employee lifts and holds items while the other assembles.

OSHA also notes that carrying loads on one shoulder, under an arm, or in one hand, creates uneven pressure on the spine. Training workers on proper technique will help mitigate this danger.

At Diversified Safety Services, we advise our clients that it is often the simplest tasks that can result in injury and lifting heavy objects is one of the prime offenders. As always, prevention is the best practice.

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