Put Your Back Into it

Put Your Back into It

By Annette Satterly, Risk Management Associate and Harry Cheff, Risk Management Associate

Once proper body mechanics are understood, this statement should be enough to make you cringe.

Between 7/1/15 and 4/2/19, there were four hundred forty-eight (448) back injuries reported that cost $1,236,506.00. During the same time period, there were two hundred ninety-five (295) shoulder injuries reported that cost $2,713,803.00. Workers compensation funds come out of the general fund. This is money that would have been better spent elsewhere. More importantly than the cost, this is seven hundred thirteen (713) people who were hurt!

How can we prevent these injuries in the future? Let’s focus on four areas.

  • Stretching: Never underestimate the benefits of stretching.  Before you are going to engage in strenuous work, you should always take five minutes to stretch your arms, legs, and back.  Warm muscles are less likely to get injured. 
  • Proper Packing:  All of us are going to move items at some point during the year. It may be a small box, or it may be heavy furniture. Most of us will try to “pack” items to make it easier for transport.  Just because you have the large box does not mean that it must be filled to the brim or even higher! The best practice is to pack what you can comfortably lift or to use smaller, light boxes or bags. The custodial crews and food service employees have been through extensive training on trading out garbage bags while they are still half empty (or half full, if you prefer) to ensure that better body mechanics can be used while getting bags in and out of cans and to dumpsters. This can be applied to all storage receptacles.
  • Mechanical Aides: Use the tools/aides that have been provided. It is often said that the best lift is the one we do not make. Know your limitations and whenever possible use mechanical aids such as hand trucks/dollies, furniture/desk movers, media carts, MSGIA garbage can lifts, and forklifts. 
  • Work smarter not harder. This includes planning your schedules and workloads so that breaks can be taken when needed and so that not all heavy lifting is accomplished at the same time. Move some heavy items and then conduct another activity and come back to lift some more. This planned alteration allows recuperation for the muscles in the back and shoulders so that injury is less likely to occur.

Of course, back and shoulder safety (proper body mechanics) can’t be forgotten.  The likelihood of a shoulder or back injury during a lift is reduced by following some simple lifting techniques:

  • Know the Load. Determine if the load is too heavy to handle by yourself and ask for help if it is.
  • Check for obstacles. Before you start walking with a load in your arms, make sure pathways are clear.
  • Position yourself. The best position to lift from is in your shoulder-to-waist area. But, if you need to lift from a lower level, position yourself by keeping feet apart and squatting down as close to the object as possible. Keep heels off the ground and get a good grip. Set your feet shoulder-distance apart and gently lift the object.
  • While lifting:
  • Lift slowly. When you lift, keep the load as close to you as possible and use your legs abdominal and gluteal muscles. Be sure to bend your knees and keep your back straight.
  • Don’t twist. Turn your whole body if you need to make a turn.

Finally, staff responsible for tasks that involve a lot of lifting and moving should view the MSGIA Safe Schools online course “Back Injury and Lifting.”  This short video demonstrates four lifting techniques (Basic Lift, Power Lift, Partial Squat Lift, and Golfer’s Lift), as well as the “Pivot Technique,” to reduce injuries from twisting.  Doing these few things can help you to avoid costly injuries and the unwelcome need to take time away from work. Of course, it’s worth noting that your shoulders and back will thank you.

Over the summer months, the schools will go through extensive cleaning and maintenance. We all need to help one another. By working smarter, we help ensure that the school year starts on a great note.  If you have questions or need additional training, please contact your MSGIA School Risk Manager. Return to newsletter