We had a very good [lifting] program at our distribution center. Professional trainers came in actually performed the tasks themselves and then designed the program to meet the muscles that were being used. They emphasized a strong warm up before any stretching was done. The program was voluntary and was well received by the crews. In fact many pushed for other programs and we introduced a stomach muscles strengthening class. I also had them run a flexibility test which measured just how flexible the guys were and where we need to focus on. This showed some interesting results and helped head off some future injuries.
A physical therapist once told us that you need to look at your associates as industrial athletes and if you take that attitude and hold onto it you should do fine.
— Dave Eldridge
During an OSHA inspection, the inspector asked me if I taught proper lifting techniques to the employees. I proudly answered “yes” only to find out that he thought this was a “bad” idea. His reasoning was that people will lift exactly how they feel like lifting at that moment, and no amount of training can change a person’s “comfortable” habits. I failed to agree, because if that statement were true, why train period?
Performing a safe lift is like doing anything more safely: the more you hear or see something, the more you are going to think about it the next time you do it. This is the entire backbone of the term “developing safety awareness.”
Relating safe lifts to home-life has a huge effect. For example: “Is it worth not being able to pick up your daughter at the end of the day because you strained your back at work from improper lifting or not using your hoist?”
As a result of the above, along with displaying & communicating metrics, such as OSHA recordable cases due to lifting and back injury within work cells drastically reduced the number of back/lifting injuries at this facility over a period of one year.
— Jennifer McMullen, CPE
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2003-09-01.