Workplace injuries caused by heavy lifting can be a major concern for companies and employees. Using ergonomic lifting techniques can help to protect the body from injury and strain, allowing for a healthier workplace environment. Although ergonomics often focuses on the professional world, anyone can benefit from learning proper ways to lift heavy objects. Some of the most effective ergonomic lifting principles include using appropriate muscle groups, proper handholds, and task rotation. Many workplaces and government agencies offer courses to educate workers about these ergonomic lifting methods.
Different types of lifting require the use of different muscle groups. Some items should be lifted using the legs as the primary means of support, while the back muscles should be used in other cases. The best way to pick up an object usually depends on its size and shape, as well as the frequency of the activity. Workers who repeatedly lift similar objects may need to use different methods than those who only do occasional lifting.
Another way to practice ergonomic lifting is to keep objects close to the body when possible, in the area from the middle of the thigh to the middle of the chest. It takes more muscle effort to hold heavy items away from the body than it does to keep them close, and it also increases the possibility of injury. In some cases, such as when an object is very large or bulky, it can be difficult or impossible to practice this technique, so other ergonomic principles may be needed.
Lifting objects is often easier when they have proper handholds. These should be large enough to accommodate a whole hand and should also be sturdy and securely attached to the object. If handholds are not available, are too small, or are not securely attached, packages can be dropped and damaged. Dropping objects may also injure workers.
One other ergonomic lifting practice is to rotate a worker's tasks if they include heavy lifting. Repetitive motion can be a major contributor to injury because it places continual stress on concentrated muscle groups, causing fatigue and strain. When possible, workers should mix in other activities with lifting to give working muscle groups a chance to rest.
Many workplaces have employees who develop and implement ergonomic programs to educate workers on proper techniques. Advice and more information can also be found through various government agencies that specialize in employee health and safety.