Due to the nature of most warehouse jobs, back pain and back injuries may seem like an inevitable consequence of too much heavy lifting. However, with a few ergonomic tweaks and the use of the right tools for heavy lifting, many of these injuries and pains can be avoided. Here are some tips to help workers prevent back pain or serious back injury while working in a warehouse setting.
Assess the environment and the job
Employers can greatly reduce the likelihood of their employees developing back pain or injuries by simply assessing the lifting requirements and monitoring the way that employees handle the heavy lifting. Are the items being moved or lifted too heavy to carry unassisted? Is there adequate room in the warehouse for proper range of motion during lifting and transportation of these heavy goods?
Employers should provide plenty of opportunities for employees to change position often to avoid straining muscles. This is true for both sitting and standing employees, as back pain can be a problem for both. Also, any items that need to be lifted and carried should be easy to grasp and hold, and employees shouldn't have to struggle to carry these loads.
Provide transportation equipment and proper training on how to use it
With the right transportation tools, employees shouldn't have to overburden their backs during the workday. Equipment such as pallet jacks and pallet lift trucks should be used whenever possible to limit the burden of heavy-lifting on the employees. Some of these pieces of equipment require special training, particularly the ones that are driven or require special skill to maneuver. However, even simple, non-motorized tools need to be used properly in order to prevent back injury.
No employee should be allowed to operate a piece of equipment, like a pallet jack, without having been properly trained and certified. The training required to operate these devices includes information about lifting safety and preventing injury. It's easy to forget that injuries can still occur when a machine is doing the heavy lifting, but if a heavy load tips unexpectedly, serious injuries can occur.
Ergonomics training can help employees avoid injuring themselves on the job. This should be reviewed from time to time and employees should be monitored to make sure they're practicing the safest lifting techniques.
Check out a company like Garland's, Inc. to purchase pallet jacks and other industrial equipment to help your employees move heavy items with less risk.
Personal safety devices can help
Personal support devices such as back belts can also greatly reduce the risk of back injuries. Some employers require the use of these devices, but even if they are not required, they are still useful and should be considered by employees who do a lot of bending or lifting. Another important thing to consider is the type of shoes that employees wear. Footwear should be non-slip and impact-resistant. Standing and lifting heavy loads can put a great deal of strain on the spine. Combine this with constant impact (from walking on hard concrete floors for hours at a time), and back pain can become a real problem.
In addition to using these devices, it's important that employees work to strengthen their back muscles to help prevent injury. Simple exercises such as the pelvic tilt and lumbar stretches can keep muscles strong and help prevent back problems in the warehouse workplace.
From proper training in ergonomics and the correct use of heavy lifting equipment to the right footwear for the job, employers have a great number of ways they can help prevent back injuries among their employees. Fewer injuries can mean less time off from work, more productivity and a more efficient staff, so it makes good sense for employers to encourage employees to "watch their backs" while on the job in a warehouse setting.