Picking up and carrying things is a natural act that occurs in everyone’s daily lives. It is so natural in fact that many people fail to see the potential damages, injuries, and accidents that could result in this mundane act.
Fortunately, people have developed techniques and procedures when carrying objects. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to avoid manual handling injuries.
What is Manual Handling?
This is defined as “any transporting or supporting of a load by one or more persons”. This includes activities such as lifting, carrying, pulling, and pushing.
It also applies to loads that are not completely under your control. For example, moving a fridge that is half on and half off a trolley would still be considered manual lifting.
It is important to be aware of manual lifting because unfortunately, it is one of the most common causes of workplace injuries. In 2015-2016 alone, there were over 12,000 handling claims lodged with the Australian Government. This accounted for almost 30% of all serious injury claims.
Why is it Important?
Manual lifting is very important because, as mentioned above, it is one of the leading causes of workplace injuries.
It is also very important because lifting or handling physical objects is very common. Whether just at home cleaning out the garage, lifting a box of papers in an office, or moving a heavy load on a construction site, it happens more than we think.
Understanding how to correctly lift objects and load them can help our bodies out in the long run by staving off any potential injuries.
Common Injuries from Manual Handling
There are many different types of injuries that can result from this type of handling. Here are some of the most common.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is the most common type of handling or lifting injury. It can be caused by incorrect lifting techniques, lifting something too heavy, or lifting something in an awkward position.
Usually, this takes place because people bend down to gather and pick up items. When they twist their upper body to stand up, it puts a strain on their lower backs. With constant wear and tear, these lower back pains hamper people from sleeping, walking, and working.
Another common injury is one in the shoulders. These include rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulders, and dislocated shoulders. These are particularly common because our shoulders help our arms move and rotate every which way.
Lifting, occur with incorrect lifting techniques, lifting a load that the body can’t handle, or dropping a load on your shoulder.
With one’s shoulders injured, it practically stops people from doing any type of labour with their hands.
Elbow injuries include tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. They are usually caused by repetitive motions such as constantly carrying heavy objects or using tools that vibrate
Next up we have wrist injuries. Handling and lifting make use of our hands. If you have ever noticed when lifting heavy loads, wrists are sometimes bent to help accommodate the weight in the hands. This could result in carpal tunnel syndrome and de Quervain’s disease among many others.
With the former, a nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm gets pressed. If this happens, people will have a harder time trying to open or close their hands.
The latter occurs when the tendons around the thumb swell. If this happens, pain and numbness at and around the thumb.
Just like with wrist injuries, hand injuries when lifting objects occur because the digits are used to hold onto heavy loads. This could result in trigger finger and Dupuytren’s contracture.
As the name suggests, a trigger finger is when a finger becomes bent like one was holding a trigger of the gun. Then, it would snap straight. This would happen sporadically.
Dupuytren’s contracture on the other hand is a type of deformity that happens to a person’s hand. The continuous strain could knot certain tissues within the hand, eventually leading to a finger becoming bent.
One of the more serious injuries that manual lifting can give is neck injuries. If a person were to consistently lift heavy loads incorrectly, it could result in injuries in the neck. This is particularly serious because any neck injury could act as a gateway to paralysis.
These include torn ligaments and patellar tendinitis. Knee injuries can be caused by incorrect lifting techniques or stepping on hard or awkward surfaces when lifting and moving loads.
The Correct Manual Handling Process
Now that we know some of the injuries resulting from this type of handling, let’s take a look at how to avoid them.
Plan the Lift
The first step is to always assess the situation. This includes looking at the load, the environment, and your own abilities. You need to ask yourself some questions such as:
- How heavy is the load?
- What is the size and shape of the load?
- Where is the load going?
- How far do I have to carry the load?
- Am I carrying the load alone or with someone else?
After answering these questions, you will have a better understanding of what is required of you. This will allow you to better plan your lift and ensure that you can do it safely.
Get a Good Grip
The second step is to get a good grip on the load. This means finding a comfortable position and ensuring that you have a firm grip. You should also make sure that your fingers are not crossed as this could lead to accidents.
If the load is too big or heavy for you to lift on your own, then seek help from others. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Keep the Load Close When Lifting
The third step is to keep the load close to your body when lifting. This will help you to maintain your balance and also reduce the strain on your back.
Lift with Your Legs
The fourth step is to lift with your legs and not your back. This will help to reduce the strain on your back and also prevent injuries.
To do this, you should bend your knees and hips and keep your back straight. Then, slowly lift the load by straightening your legs. Remember to take breaks if the load is too heavy or if you start to feel fatigued.
Once you have the load in your hand, always remember the previous step and keep the load as close as possible to your waist area.
Keep a Stable Posture
The fifth step is to keep a stable posture. This means keeping your feet shoulder-width apart and maintaining your balance.
If you are carrying the load for a long distance, then you should take breaks every few minutes to rest and avoid fatigue
Avoid Twisting Your Body
The sixth step is to avoid twisting your body when carrying the load. This could lead to accidents and injuries. If you need to turn, always move your feet first before turning your whole body. In addition, remember to always keep one’s head up and straight during the lift so as to avoid any neck injuries.
Set the Load Down Safely
The seventh and final step is to set the load down safely. This means finding a stable surface on which to place the load. Once you have found a suitable surface, bend your knees and hips to place the load down.
Simple Yet Important
Manual handling is something that occurs every day. Due to how common it is, many people fail to understand how the correct lifting techniques can help prevent many injuries from occurring. While these may not sound as necessary when carrying boxes from one’s garage, these simple yet important techniques can help you save a world of pain and costs in the long run.
If these injuries do take place at home or in the office, always be ready to offer help and assistance with the right first aid practices.
Learn what you can do to help those afflicted with manual lifting injuries via CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course.