OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 14 Lifting and Handling Loads

Section 209 Adapting heavy or awkward loads

In some situations, and with a particular heavy or awkward load, it may not be reasonably practical for the employer to provide equipment as required by section 208. In such circumstances the employer is required to

(1) adapt the load to make it easier for workers to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, handle or transport the load without injury. Examples of how to do this include:

(a) reducing the weight of the load by dividing it into two or more manageable loads (see Figure 14.40);
(b) increasing the weight of the load so that no worker can handle it and therefore mechanical assistance is required (see Figure 14.40);
(c) reducing the capacity of the container;
(d) reducing the distance the load must be held away from the body by reducing the size of the packaging; and
(e) providing handholds (see Figure 14.40), or

(2) otherwise minimize the manual handling required to move the load. Examples of how to do this include:

(a) team lift the object with two or more workers;
(b) improve the layout of the work process to minimize the need to move materials;
(c) reorganize the work method(s) to eliminate or reduce repeated handling of the same object;
(d) rotate workers to jobs with light or no manual handling; and
(e) use mobile storage racks to avoid unnecessary loading and unloading.

Figure 14.39 Examples of dividing a load, increasing the weight of a load, and providing a load with lifting handles

Some comments about lifting technique

For many years workers were taught to keep their backs straight and “lift with your legs”. Despite years of train-the-trainer programs preaching this approach, back injuries have not decreased so researchers have questioned this method of lifting. In practice, most people use a semi-squat posture, with both the back and knees slightly bent.

People make up there own minds as to the most efficient way of lifting loads in terms of energy and time. This so-called freestyle technique is fine as long as the following basic principles are followed:

(1) keep the natural curve in the lower back – when standing straight, the lower back naturally curves to create a slight hollow. Always try to maintain this curve when lifting, lowering or moving objects. The spine and back are their most stable in this position;

(2) contract the abdominal muscles – contract the abdominal muscles during lifting, lowering or moving activities. This improves spine stability. Sometimes described as “bracing”, contracting the abdominal muscles even slightly (as little as four to five percent) improves spine stability and reduces the likelihood of injury;

(3) avoid twisting – twisting the back can make it less stable, increasing the likelihood of injury. Bracing helps reduce any tendency to twist; and

(4) hold it close – keep the load as close to the belly button and body as possible. Doing so reduces the strain on muscles of the back and trunk. If necessary, protective clothing such as leather aprons should be used so that sharp, dirty, hot, or cold objects can be held as close to the body as possible.

Some comments about pushing and pulling

Whenever possible, loads should be pushed rather than pulled (see Figure 14.41). The reasons for this include:

(a)the feet can be run over and the ankles struck painfully when pulling carts or trolleys;

(b) pulling a load while facing the direction of travel means that the arm is stretched behind the body, placing the shoulder and back in an awkward posture. This increases the likelihood of injury to the shoulder and arm;

(c) pulling while walking backwards means that the person is unable to see where he or she is going; and

(d) most people can develop higher push forces than pull forces as they lean their body weight into the load.

Trolleys and carts should be sized and designed to allow almost any worker to move a load without excessive effort (see Figure 14.42).

Figure 14.40 Pushing is preferred to pulling with an arm extended backwards

Figure 14.41 Cart push bar must be at a height suitable for all workers

For more information
Lifting and Your Back – Some Fresh Ideas
Bulletin BCL004
Let’s Back Up a Bit – Some Truths About Back Belts
Bulletin PH003
Seven Myths About Back Pain
Bulletin BCL005
Sitting and Preventing Back Pain
Bulletin ERG014
The Ergonomics of Manual Material Handling