Prevention of Back Injury and Spine Issues

The use of mechanical aids for load lifting and handling, whenever practicable, is the most effective method of preventing back injury. When manual handling of loads is unavoidable, the worker should be instructed in and apply the principles of safe lifting and handling. These guides are aimed at describing the common stresses imposed on the back by work activity and advising on the prevention of back injury and spine issues as below:-

Principles of safe lifting and handling for spine health care and back pain prevention

The safest methods of manual handling and lifting for prevention of back injury and spine issue are based on the following six principles:-

(1) Correct Grip
The sense of touch and the ability of the hands to carry out both hard and sensitive work is, next to sight probably the most valuable of the senses. The ability of the fingers to maintain pressure is limited, however, and they soon become tired, especially when the hands are being held out in front of the body to hold an object or when they are trying to grip a shiny surface. Gripping with the fingertips will therefore strain the fingers and also the muscles in the forearm. The correct grip uses the palm of the hand and the roots of the fingers and thumb so that prolonged strain on the fingers is avoided. Where boxes or small bins are used regularly to carry materials or objects from one position to another, they should never be fitted with finger holds or narrow handles which encourage the worker to use his fingers.
(2) Straight Back
If the back is bent as a worker reaches down to pick up an object he is off balance, strain is immediately imposed on the muscles controlling the spine by giving them more work to do and the discs between the vertebrae are compressed. When the object is lifted, this weight is added to the already considerable weight of the head, shoulders and arms. All too frequently, therefore, the worker suffers strain in the back muscles, or possibly a slipped disc. In lifting, therefore, the back should be kept straight and the body lowered to reach the load by flexing hips, knees and ankles. The lift is then carried out by using the powerful muscles of the legs rather than the back, which is kept straight, though not necessarily vertical, throughout the movement.
(3) Chin Position
To help maintain a straight back, the chin should be tucked in before the lift is begun. This pushes the top of the head upwards and keeps the top of the spine straight.
(4) Position of Feet
If the feet are close together, the weight of the body and of the load being lifted is balanced on a small floor area. This means that the worker can easily lose balance on his own or from someone bumping into him. The feet should therefore be the width of the hips apart with one foot in front of the other. The leading foot should point in the direction in which the worker will be moving. This balances the load far more securely and means that the worker can more easily ride any bumps he receives while he is lifting and is less likely to lose control of the load.
(5) Position of Arms
Lifting, pushing or carrying with the arms held away from the sides of the body imposes unnecessary strain on the chest upper back and shoulder muscles. The arms should therefore be kept as close in to the body as possible.
(6) Use of Body Weight
If used properly, the weight of the body can help in moving a load by acting as a counterbalance, so reducing the amount of muscular effort needed. It is wrong for the worker to feel comfortable at the beginning of a lifting movement because it means that he is positioned for remaining still. If the body-weight is to be used correctly, the starting position will usually be uncomfortable if he holds the position for more than a few seconds without moving. The action of moving the body from the uncomfortable starting position into a more comfortable one means that the weight of the body is being used as a source of power to overcome the weight and the resistance of the load, without excessive muscular effort. Such a movement must be a smooth one, however, and not a jerk or "snatch".

These six principles can be applied to all manual handling and lifting operations. The essence of them is the controlled use of the body, especially body-weight, and they require thought and practice. However, once they become as automatic as his second nature, the worker can lift and handle loads in much greater safety to himself and other workers than by using the "natural" methods.

Where two or more workers are carrying out lifting or handling operations it is essential that they should work together as a team, one worker, preferably the lightest, giving all necessary orders. Every workplace has its own difficult handling problems, either through environment or, more usually, special processes. Under these circumstances and as a result of long practice, the workers often develop their own skills and knacks in carrying out the work. Provided these skills are acceptable, they should be retained and the worker encouraged adopting correct body movements along with them.

Rules for safe lifting for spine health care and back pain prevention

The basic lifting rule is "use your head" to think things through before starting. Essential Steps are:-

(1) Examine object for size, shape and weight. Decide where and how to hold it. Check for grease, oil, sharp edges. Be extra careful of awkward shapes in difficult situation;
(2) Clear path of obstructions and tripping hazards;
(3) Know where and how the object will be let down; and
(4) Get help if there is any doubt

General rules for all situations are:
(1) Start close to the object. Have a firm footing with feet spread on either side of the load;
(2) Keep back straight—bend knees;Squat down—straddle the load somewhat;
(3) Grasp object firmly. Be sure grip will not slip;
(4) Breath-in—inflated lungs help to support the spine;
(5) Lift with legs—slowly straighten the legs. After legs are straight bring back to vertical position;
(6) Hold object firmly close to body;
(7) Always lift smoothly. Avoid jerky motions. Turn with feet instead of twisting the back.
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