The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2017, there were 97,990 cases of injury involving overexertion in lifting or lowering that resulted in days away from work. Back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days.
Back disorders can develop gradually as a result of repetitive activity over time, or can be the product of a single traumatic event.
Lifting injuries are painful, debilitating, and can be prevented. Stay safe when lifting heavy loads! Follow these tips to prevent back pain and injury from lifting.
Before You Lift
- Always warm up your back and legs by stretching before any lifting task.
- Performing warm-up stretching exercises helps reduce the risk of injury.
- Know what you’re lifting and how you’ll lift it.
- Be aware of the weight of the object.
- Determine whether it’s safe to life on your own, or whether you’ll need assistance.
- Make sure the work area is flat, dry, and clear of debris.
Check your pathway
- Make sure the lift pathway is clear.
- Remove any tripping hazards or debris.
- Check for any wet or slick surfaces.
Use ergonomic equipment
- Use lift assists, forklift, dolly, card, hand truck, or hoist.
- Make sure you are trained before using the equipment.
Get help when needed
- When lifting awkward or heavy loads, utilize a two-person lift.
- Make sure you lift at the same time and keep the load level.
Wear proper PPE
- Wear proper protective shoes and gloves.
The Basics of Lifting
As you lift, always…
- Keep the load as close to you as possible.
- Keep your back straight.
- Turn your feet outward and push your buttocks out. (Picture a professional weight lifter.)
- Bend your knees.
- Keep your head forward. Your lift will be more balanced and the curves in your spine will stay balanced and aligned.
- Breathe out as you lift.
Lifting Do’s and Don’ts
- Know or test the object weight.
- Use ergonomic lift assists when possible.
- Plan the lift and clear your path.
- Get help for heavy or awkward loads.
- Keep the object in the power zone.
- Use a wide stance for balance
- Use your legs to lift.
- Pivot your feet to avoid twisting.
- Don’t hold your breath.
- Don’t bend or twist at the waist.
- Don’t use a partial grip (1-2 fingers).
- Don’t obstruct your vision when carrying.
- Don’t jerk or lift quickly.
- Don’t pinch your fingers or toes.
- Don’t pull a load if you can push it.
- Don’t forget to wear proper PPE.
Learn lifting techniques for different loads here.
Other Helpful Tips for Sewer & Drain Cleaners
Some sewer cleaning machines weight in excess of 200 pounds. While loading or unloading a machine of this size, the service vehicle needs a ramp, a hoist or a liftgate. If your sewer machine can be disassembled, take it apart and load it separately on the service vehicle. Minimize the weight whenever possible.