In this video we’ll review the dangers of heavy lifting and introduce you to some simple techniques you can follow to reduce your risk of back injuries.
Did you know that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers experience back injuries every year? Of those million, one out of every five workplace injuries are a result of back injury. Moreover, three out of four of those injuries occurred from employees lifting and most of those injuries were to the lower back. Yikes!
Knowing these alarming statistics means we need to take extra precaution when handling everyday large objects such as restrooms, sinks, and heavy equipment that is often associated with the work we perform here.
Step 1 : Plan Ahead
When it comes to lifting heavy objects, it’s important to always plan ahead. This means before you lift anything, inspect your desired path and surroundings to be sure that the ground is level and free of tripping hazards. You’ll also want to plan where you’ll need to place the object before ever attempting to move it. This simple, and often overlooked, step can mean all the difference when you’re about to dolly a 200lb portable restroom.
Step 2 : Stretch
Now that you’ve inspected your path of travel, it’s important that you perform a couple quick stretches to help loosen up your muscles. A few simple stretches of the legs and back will help warm up your body, especially if you’ve been sitting in a truck for a while. Some recommended stretches might include a standing back arch, a shoulder blade squeeze, or even a lower trunk rotation.
To perform a standing back arch, you’ll need to stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put the palms of your hands on your lower back. Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax. Bend your upper body backward, keeping your knees straight. Support your back with your hands. Hold for five seconds. Return slowly to your starting position. Repeat 4-5 times.
To perform a shoulder blade squeeze you’ll want to maintain a good standing posture, pull your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat 4-5 times as needed.
Lastly, to perform a lower trunk rotation you’ll want to keep the hips square and the spine tall. Position the hands behind the head then slow rotate the upper torso to the left then hold for 5-10 seconds. You’ll then repeat this stretch on the left-hand side, holding for 5-10 seconds. You can then repeat this and any other stretches periodically throughout the day to help prevent injury.
Step 3 : Lift
Now that you’ve stretched and you’ve planned where you need to move the heavy object, you’re ready to begin the lift. Lifting an object, no matter the weight or size, is more than just bending your knees. Whenever possible, always try to lift with your legs, not your back. Start by standing close to the object and then bending your knees with your upper body upright. This ensures that your legs are doing all the work, not your back. Next, hinge at the hips, engage your abdominal muscles, and lift your upper body to straighten your spine.
It’s important to note that there are 4 smaller “strappy-like” muscles on the outside of your shoulder along with thin tendons that hold everything in place. By lifting heavy objects incorrectly or awkwardly, you place these muscles and tendons under strain that they are not meant to endure. These four muscles are not meant for lifting, that’s why it’s important to always keep your core engaged for strength.
Note: if the object you’re lifting is particularly large or heavy, use mechanical assistance whenever possible. This could be something as simple as a lift or a handcart. Each truck within our fleet is equipped with a two-wheel handcart. Most handcarts can be found mounted to the front of your vehicle and should be used whenever physically possible.
Loading the Unit to Your Trailer
When lifting a restroom onto your truck or trailer for pickup, always do your best to load the unit near the center of the tailgate or trailer deck. This will ensure you have plenty of clearance on both sides and will avoid any hang-ups that could occur. After this step, you’ll want to slowly lower the weight of the unit from the handcart to the vehicle. You can do this by trying to align the small notch on the underside of the skid to the edge of the deck. This will help it catch better.
At this point, you have a restroom tipped on a 45-degree angle, partially resting on your vehicle and the handcart. You’ll now want to grab the unit with two hands and lower your center of gravity to maintain balance. Slowly push forward and up simultaneously, giving it the momentum, it needs to clear the deck, while also preventing it from accidentally tipping over. Once loaded on the deck, it’s time to strap the unit for transport.
Step 4 : Carry
When using a handcart to carry a load, always push, not pull it. While it may not seem natural, it’s the safest way to prevent painful back injuries. Always carry with a firm grip. When pushing, your line of sight can often be blocked, so it’s important to look side to side past the unit as often as possible, letting your feet be your guide when changing direction. Try to lead with your hips and keep your shoulders in line with your hips’ movement. Never twist or turn, as this can add strain to your back’s discs, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. If you become unbalanced or start to lose your grip, never try to readjust by turning or jiggling, just simply let it go.
Step 5 : Lower the Load
When you’re ready to set the object down, bend your knees, allowing your leg muscles to support the weight. Slowly lower the object but be careful not to drop it. When lowering, avoid sudden movements, as you can just as easily injure your back setting the object down as you can picking it up. If you feel like you’re losing control, always just let it go. Once you’ve completed the heavy lift, give your body a short break to help cut down on muscle fatigue should you need to perform more continuous work.
Unloading a Restroom:
When unloading a restroom from your truck or trailer, begin by sliding the appropriate unit to the closest exit point with the door facing inwards. The exit point should always be clear of obstacles and live traffic. Once it’s positioned on the edge of the deck, stand about 2-3 ft behind the restroom making sure your feet are clear from the drop. Firmly grab the unit by the sides and ease it back slowly until it’s center of gravity tips and falls to the ground. Once the skid hits the ground, you’ll want to utilize your vehicle’s handcart.
In conclusion, it’s important that you remember to never reach, twist, or turn when lifting, carrying, or lowering an object. Whenever possible, be sure to use mechanical assistance. If the load you are carrying begins to fall, always let it go to protect yourself. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In doing so, you could save yourself from a serious back injury that could lead to extreme discomfort.