Backsafe 4 Don’ts – the secret to correct manual handling

The Backsafe 4 Don’ts are our way to help you reduce your risk of creating a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) at work and home. Following our 4 Backsafe Rules will help you reduce your risk of injury by up to as much as 80%.  They are also the secret to correct manual handling.

Don’t Bend

The spine is designed to work most efficiently straight up and down while maintaining the natural curves of the body. When lifting, pulling, pushing or carrying a load that is either animate (ie an animal or person) or inanimate (ie a box or drum of paint) it is important to use your spine as an upright column at all times. It is also vital that a working person does not bend forward more than 20 degrees and at no time should you use your spinal column as a lever.

When keeping your spine upright while lifting or working, gravity and the weight of the body, plus the weight of the tools or the load being lifted, is transferred evenly and predictably through the spinal column, hips and legs to the ground. Most people however bend too far forward when carrying a load which uses their spinal column incorrectly. Research has shown that the intervertebral discs will suffer from forward postures and can crack and tear over time causing permanent damage.

Don’t Twist

Twisting to the right or left more than the recommended 20 degrees (ie that is sideways movement without moving your feet) will put tension or a grinding sideways movement into the lower back discs. The lower backbone structure is not designed to move past this recommended movement of 20 degrees left or right. It is therefore hazardous to your health to twist.  Soft tissue damage may also occur and disc damage may result over time. Twisting movements should also not be done when either standing or sitting.

When we twist the lower back, we also twist the discs in that area. When the discs are twisted the fibrous bands of the disc on one side will slacken to allow for the twisting action, however on the other side the fibrous bands will tighten up. This increases pressure in the disc and can lead to an instantaneous rupture of the disc.

Tilting of the upper body to the side more than 20 degrees is similar to a twist and can also cause damage to the lower back and to the intervertebral discs by loading up one side of the structure. The pressure created by a tilt in an already damaged lower back can result in an immediate herniation or bulging of the intervertebral disc.

Don’t Reach

When you reach out with a load, pressure will focus in your shoulders and upper back between the shoulder blades and can then transfer down to the lower back. Extending a load 60cm away from your body increases the pressure up to three times the weight of the load. For example, holding a 10kg load 60cm away from you will exert about 30kg of pressure through your body. These pressures can eventually cause damage to the shoulder joint which is being used as a pivot point in this type of lift. Mid and or lower back problems can also be caused.

Don’t Jump

Jumping in the workplace (ie jumping out of a truck or off a loading dock) exerts a shock wave or vibration of pressure between 7 and 10 times your total body weight plus any load you may be carrying through your body. This pressure starts in your feet and travels through your ankles, knees and spine when you land.

Jumping damages the joints of the body by wearing away the series of cartilage positioned throughout your body that act as shock absorbers. The pressure on the spine can also result in major damage to the spinal discs. Jumping creates a shock in the body much like the shock that a fast bowler suffers when he slams his front foot down when playing cricket.

Our message and the secret to correct manual handling is Don’t Bend, Don’t Twist, Don’t Reach and Don’t Jump to decrease the risk of suffering musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace.

For more information about the Backsafe Manual Handling onsite company training please call Peter Broadbent on 1300 022 257.

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