KEY TAKEAWAY: Understanding how to train your employees on safe lifting techniques can help ensure you’re mitigating the risk of injuries or accidents on the job. Here’s what you need to know.
- Understand whom to train
- Establish clearly defined limits on loads
- Test individual employees to ensure they are capable of physical job tasks
- Train employees to assess a load before lifting
- Ensure employees know and use safe lifting technique
- Encourage communication around any lifting-related issues
- Invest in education and training related to physical fitness
- Develop an ongoing training approach
- Develop a strong culture of workplace safety
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Education and training on safe lifting techniques is absolutely crucial for any safety-focused organization. Employees who have physical roles that require lifting must be capable of lifting with appropriate methods. Workplaces with high load-carrying requirements should consider implementing some preventative measures such as having machine-operated load assistance. However, even with such measures in place, there will still likely be lifting tasks for employees.
Since you’ll want to ensure employees are completing those tasks safely, employers must understand how to train their team on safe lifting techniques. They should understand the basics of lifting and other crucial steps for effective execution. Use the following steps as a guideline on training your employees to lift safely.
Understand whom to train
It may be evident that specific industries and job roles require more training in proper lifting techniques. However, all employees can benefit from some level of training. An office worker, for example, may find themselves unloading a heavy shipment of stationery. Training for employees who routinely lift heavy objects should be prioritized, but ensure that all employees receive an appropriate level of training. Create a training needs analysis to determine what safe lifting training to do at an organizational and employee level.
Establish clearly defined limits on loads
Each workplace needs to have clearly defined limits (i.e. a certain weight) on loads that employees can lift. These can be detailed in the workplace policies and procedures manual. Determine when a load requires two or more lifters or mechanical assistance. Make sure employees are aware of these guidelines and aren’t attempting to lift weights above this limit on their own.
Limits should be adhered to, but they must also be a guide only. Many factors affect a person’s ability to lift an object. Examples include the frequency and duration of lifting and where the loads are positioned.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have standards for the limits that a person can carry. However, they suggest using the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mathematical model that helps predict injury risk from lifting based on various criteria.
Test individual employees to ensure they are capable of physical job tasks
Employees will have different lifting capabilities. Additionally, these decrease after repeated lifting or for other fatigue-related reasons such as inadequate sleep or recovery from an illness or injury. Therefore, even if you have particular guidelines or limits in place for your workforce, employees must still be treated as individuals. Ensure the established load limits are right for them and that there is flexibility to reduce the load as required.
SureHire offers fitness-to-work testing to ensure employees are physically capable of completing their job tasks. The testing is for everyday workplace job tasks such as lifting, carrying, kneeling, and crouching. Testing can help minimize injury risk and subsequently reduce injury-related costs.[Find out more about how to prepare in “Fitness-to-Work Testing Preparation”].
Looking For Fitness-to-Work Testing?
SureHire’s Fitness-to-Work program tests participants’ ability to perform the physical demands and bona fide occupational requirements of a job. These day-to-day tasks can include lifting, carrying, crouching, bending, reaching, and long periods of time spent moving without rest.
Fitness-to-Work testing is a great tool for employers in determining whether they have the right hire for the job.
Train employees to assess a load before lifting
Employees must know when to ask for help with a load. They must understand what is inside their capabilities, and this goes beyond looking at the weight of an object alone. Train employees to assess:
- The surrounding environment (for example, check that there is nothing to trip over on the floor)
- The starting height of the object
- The end position of the object
- Carrying duration
- The shape of the object and whether this presents any issues
- How easy it is to grip the load
- Whether the lifting task raises the possibility for awkward posture
- Whether any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required for the lift
Train employees on safe lifting techniques
When an employee has assessed a load and determined it is safe for lifting, they can use the following tips for safety.
- Ensure your muscles are warm before you begin lifting
- Make sure you get a secure grip with both hands on the load
- Place your feet wide enough for a solid base of support
- When lifting from the ground, ensure that your knees do not get in the way of lifting and adjust your support base accordingly
- Lengthen your spine and engage your core muscles before starting a lift — and maintain this strong posture throughout
- Bend your knees deeply in preparation for a lift (lifts should primarily rely on powerful leg muscles — the default lift position for many people is to bend forward at the hips with little engagement from the legs, but this is more likely to result in injury)
- Look straight ahead while lifting
- Keep the load close to your body to minimize muscle strain
- Avoid any twisting motions while carrying the load
- Push up to a standing position by using your hips as the driving force and pushing down through your feet
Encourage communication around any lifting-related issues
Ask employees to speak up if they are experiencing any problems related to lifting loads in the workplace. These could include issues such as muscle aches and pains. Identify issues early to ensure they don’t turn into big problems. If employees feel they can speak out, this could reduce the risk of acute injuries or chronic musculoskeletal disorders — and it alerts you to changes that need to be made in your workplace.
Invest in education and training related to physical fitness
Understanding the mechanics of lifting and safety tips for lifting is critical. However, after employee assessment via fitness-to-work testing, employers can also play a role in helping employees to maintain and improve their physical strength. You might consider investing in workplace physical training initiatives such as regular team physical training sessions or fitness-related workplace team challenges.
Develop an ongoing training approach
An ongoing training approach helps ensure the effective implementation of safe lifting techniques. Correct lifting takes time to master. Whatever we repeatedly perform becomes an ingrained movement pattern. Thus, if training is a one-off event, employees will likely return to their default lifting techniques after a short time. Ongoing reinforcement of correct lifting techniques is necessary.
Develop a strong culture of workplace safety
Ingrain safety into your workplace culture so things like safe lifting techniques become easier to implement. Ensure your management team and supervisors are well-trained in safe lifting techniques. Then they can gently coach other team members on an ongoing basis, and can easily spot any issues. One further step employers can take in this space is to invest in occupational health and safety training courses.
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