Many industries and work environments like warehousing, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and more require employees to perform pushing and pulling activities. Workers may need to push and pull levers, boxes, carts, and other objects with varying weights.
It is no surprise, then, to expect injuries caused by these activities. Whether from handling tasks wrong or putting the body in strange and uncomfortable positions, people with jobs that require any level of manual labor are at risk of developing these injuries. But, how can they prevent pushing and pulling injuries at work?
Keep reading to learn more about pushing and pulling injuries, and how to prevent them in the workplace, whether for your own well-being or for the wellness of your employees.
How Much Force Should You Exert When Pushing & Pulling to Avoid Injuries At Work?
Most pushing and pulling injuries are a result of overexertion. Overexertion is among the leading disabling injury causes, costing businesses $15 billion each year. So, how much force should you apply for the pushing and pulling movements? There is no definitive number, however, you can consider the many factors that affect the needed strength for these movements.
Some of these factors are:
- Weight of the body
- Weight of the object
- Force application distance from the body
- Force application height and direction (straight or angled)
- Duration of the push and pull movements
- Body posture (bending forward or leaning back)
- Body position (standing, kneeling, etc.)
- Surface conditions (slope and slipperiness)
- The grip between the shoes and surface
What Are the Most Common Injuries at Work?
The most common injuries caused by pushing and pulling activities are:
- Chronic injuries like neck, back, and lower back pain
- Sprain and strain injuries
- Slip and falls
- Finger, wrist, hand, and shoulder injuries
- Lower leg injuries
- Occupational fatigue
Different Ways to Prevent Pushing & Pulling Injuries at Work
There are many ways to treat sprains and strains or different solutions to boost workforce resiliency. Although, it is more important to educate yourself on the correct ergonomics for handling these activities to prevent injuries in the first place.
Here are some tips you can use at work to lower your chances of injury.
Push Instead of Pulling
Whenever you have the option of pushing an object instead of pulling it, choose the former. This technique is also one of the recommended tips for avoiding back injuries when dealing with heavy items.
Pushing is easier and safer on the body because when you push:
- You have better visibility and can see where you are going since you are pushing the object forward
- You put less stress on your shoulders and muscles as opposed to when you pull
- You’re able to apply more force easily by leaning your weight into the object
Evaluate the Risks
Before doing anything, carefully assess the hazards and do the following to minimize the risk of injuries at work:
- Check the path of travel to make sure it is smooth and free of obstacles
- Determine your route beforehand
- Evaluate the size, shape, weight, and material of the object
- Make sure the object is stable enough
- Use the appropriate footwear with a good grip and consider compression socks designed to mitigate discomfort associated with long-term standing
- Avoid slopes and rough, uneven surfaces
Do Not Put Your Body in Awkward Positions
Do not perform workplace pushing and pulling activities with awkward posture. We all have our habitual movement patterns and ways of standing and sitting, so it’s important to re-evaluate your posture before beginning your work. Twisting and rotating your body for pushing and pulling heavy objects is an easy way to ensure injury. Instead, learn how to position your body the right way to facilitate better workplace injury prevention.
Use Equipment if Possible
Use the appropriate handling and transportation devices if you have access to them. Using equipment like carts, dollies, trolley wheels, and handholds on objects to perform pushing and pulling activities at work can be a safer way of moving the items.
Be sure to follow all instructions and guidelines for your work equipment, as well as the direction of your workplace for best safety practices.
Face the Object
Face the object you want to pull instead of facing forward and pulling it behind you. This position has detrimental effects on your body and can increase the risk of injury. If you face the object squarely, you can use your weight to pull it safely.
Get Closer to the Object
It is better to get as close as you can to the object you want to pull or push. This practice will lower overexertion and give you better control over the item. If you lean forward to push and lean backward to pull, you will also notice that the movement becomes easier.
Use Your Entire Body
By using your entire body to perform the tasks, you can prevent pushing and pulling injuries at work.
- Use both your arms at all times by placing your hands on either side of the object
- Tuck your elbows in as close as possible and keep your forearms in line with your elbows
- Keep your back straight and knees bent
- Drop your hips and use the weight of your legs by taking a wide stance
- Engage your core to protect your back
- Squeeze your abdominal muscles when you want to start the movement
- Try to keep your core muscles tight throughout the whole process
- Take long steps when you want to push or pull the object
Take It Slow
Do not rush the movement as this can lead to injuries. Instead, take it slow and one step at a time to retain control and protect yourself and those around you.
Stay Safe from Injuries at Work
Pushing and pulling injuries in the workplace can affect your quality of life both in and outside of the workplace. Furthermore, they can potentially impact your financial stability, work-life balance, and health in general. By educating yourself on proper movements and ergonomics, you can minimize the risks of these injuries and stay safe.
So push and pull safely and let us know in the comments which one of these tips you use at work!
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