In our line of work it’s no “stretch” to imagine our workers operating heavy machinery and constantly loading & unloading heavy materials on the job. The physical demands are significant and the job always carries some risk of injury. Our obsession with protective gear and regular training on safety procedures helps to ensure our workers remain safe and injury-free.
One very common injury which is largely preventable and does not just apply to the oil industry but rather can affect any of us in our daily routines is back injuries. This month we are going to examine how to prevent back injuries, which account for nearly 30% of all work-related injury in the U.S. across all industries! Before we even start talking about actually lifting any heavy objects, we would be wise to focus on stretching and warming-up. This is something we can and SHOULD do everyday regardless of our occupation!
Our lower backs carry most of the stress and pressure of our entire bodies as we twist, bend, climb, and sit throughout the day. Regular stretching and exercise will keep your back muscles and ligaments flexible, strong and less prone to injury. Begin by focusing on core strengthening exercises which will build both abdominal muscles as well as back and torso muscles. This is one of the most important and most ignored aspects to avoiding back injury. Another very helpful prevention tip is to take extra care to stretch your hamstrings. Giving these muscles proper attention will relieve pressure on the pelvis and lower back making back injury much less likely.
Beyond daily care and exercise, we also need to pay attention to the actual proper way to lift heavy objects. Remember, even objects as light as 10-20 pounds can lead to strained back muscles and ligaments so using correct technique is essential. Nothing can 100% prevent injury but these techniques will greatly reduce your risk:
Stand: Approach the object and keep feet balanced and shoulder width apart.
Squat: Use your knees (NOT your waist) to bend down towards the object. Your back should remain as straight as possible at this point.
Grasp: Make sure you have a good, firm hold of the object with BOTH hands. If the object is very large or awkwardly shaped then ask someone to assist. Work gloves or lifting straps can be very helpful when lifting large or heavy items.
Lift: Keep your back straight and eyes up while slowly straightening your legs and lift the object. Most of the exertion should be felt in your legs and not in your back.
Carry Closely: The center of gravity needs to remain as close to your body as possible in order to avoid major stress on your lumbar area of the back. Using a good grip will help with this step and avoid the object getting too far away from your body.
Blakely Construction always takes your health and your safety seriously and hopes this article will serve as a great reminder and keep you healthy and injury-free!