Ensuring a safe workplace is not only the right thing to do – it’s good business. Lost work hours due to injury are expensive, not to mention the impact on your Workers Compensation premiums if your company establishes a pattern of safety problems. Today’s focus topic applies to countless business settings: safe lifting practices.
Setting up the work environment
Safe lifting starts with configuring the work space. Lean manufacturing practices typically strive to minimize the distance that materials need to be transported, either manually or mechanically, to be used in a production process. Safe lifting practices incorporate an assessment of the weight, size, and distance that objects need to be carried.
Improper stacking of materials can create hazards when workers go to retrieve them. And lifting is not the only hazard created by improper stacking – falling objects can injure workers before they even attempt to lift them.
The condition of the floor in the workplace can also contribute to problems with lifting. Poor housekeeping practices can result in debris on the production floor that inhibit traction or cause trip hazards.
Choices about packaging can create lifting problems. Containers that are too heavy and too bulky, or that require awkward hand positions, can create injury. Bending, followed by twisting and turning, are most commonly cited as causes.
When lifting heavy objects is a regular occurrence in a workplace, it is incumbent upon management to provide mechanical assistance to do so. And of course, it is important to properly train employees in both the safe operation of forklifts, etc. AND the avoidance of injury when working near another employee who is operating the lifting equipment.
Employee role in safe lifting
It is not sound management practice to assume that employees know the correct handling of large or bulky loads. This needs to be included in a new employee’s training, incorporated into policy (job requirements that include lifting a certain load), and addressed regularly in employee safety meetings and periodic refreshers. Safety training should be documented, including content, dates, and attendee lists.
Safety equipment for lifting should also be provided. Depending upon the setting, such equipment might include supportive belts, gloves, protective shoes and/or hard hats.
Despite an employer’s attention to sound safety practices, there are circumstances where employees will try to do more than is safe. They may try to life loads manually that should be lifted only with mechanical assistance. Onsite management observation and employee safety teams can help to identify risky situations before they result in injury.
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