Safe lifting techniques are essential for preventing workplace injuries. When workers improperly lift equipment, tools, inventory, debris, or other objects, he or she becomes exposed to a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries. Proper training and the provision of safety equipment can protect worker health and reduce the risk of injury.
To Squat or Stoop?
For nearly fifty years, safety managers, scientists, physicians, work accident lawyers, and physical therapists have debated whether it is safer to squat or stoop when lifting heavy objects. At issue is whether squat lifting, which involves lifting while the back is straight and the knees are bent, or stoop lifting, which involves a bent back and straight knees, is safer.
The fact is that neither option is safer, and data doesn’t favor one technique over the other. Both lifting techniques can cause severe back injuries and knee injuries. While the rates of injury following the use of squat lifting techniques are slightly greater, the difference isn’t significant enough to suggest that it is inherently safer.
Whenever an employee lifts an object from ground level, it places considerable strain on the spinal column. Repeated lifting over time can increase the risk of lower back disorders. This risk increases with the weight of the load lifted and the amount of times the motion is repeated.
Overexertion Injuries Are Costly
Businesses nationwide spent roughly $14 billion on overexertion injuries in 2019. That accounts for approximately 24% of all workers’ compensation expenses related to occupational injuries that year.
It is estimated that 34 million workers in the United States will suffer a lower back injury at some point in their working career. This includes a wide range of professions, such as office workers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, agricultural workers, and more. Whether it is lifting a box of paper, moving furniture, baling hay, or hauling inventory, anytime there’s an object to lift, the risk of an overexertion injury is present.
Ergonomics and Safety Equipment Are the Keys to Safety
Ultimately, the best way to prevent lower back injuries, torn cartilage, and overextension injuries is to reduce the amount of lifting required in the workplace. The use of dollies, jacks, and forklifts can provide considerable protection. Additionally, workers should be provided with proper personal protective equipment including back braces, knee braces, and other devices that can support and shield muscle groups, tendons, and ligaments from overexertion injuries.