Preventing Injury in Manual Material Handling

February 8, 2016

Preventing Injury in Manual Material Handling: Uncommon Common Sense

The correlation between physical work and injury is obvious. Typing “Injuries due to lifting and pulling” into a search engine fetches countless pages on research, incidents, costs, treatments, and prevention. Pages for law offices appear, too, as workplace injuries yield some pretty hefty settlements. In the wake of these cases are the workers who are left with additional medical bills, inability to work, and a lifetime of chronic pain – sometimes debilitating. The effort to minimize payouts has led us into an era of ergonomics and safety training – the components of which have become common sense, especially for those whose jobs involve manual material handling (MMH). However, there is far more to injury prevention than just lifting properly. Furthermore, the worker himself is accountable for whether his body is prone to injury. How can anyone truly safely manipulate heavy materials without understanding his own role in the process?

The missing pieces lie in understanding the human body. This amazing machine we operate every day differs from person to person, but within each are the same cells, tissues, and structures. Human capabilities and limitations are affected by several factors that are often ignored, but are within our control. Here are some of the less-commonly considered elements of MMH common sense:

  • Fatigue – this is not just about being tired, and this is not determined by how strong a person is. Every body wears down from heat, dehydration, hunger, and lack of rest. People often ignore the signs of fatigue, thinking they can power through it. However, when a person is fatigued, physical strength decreases, and the body itself is more vulnerable to injury. Very simply, the body needs time to rest. Taking sufficient breaks will allow the body to recharge and be more productive overall. Replenishing fluids and calories throughout the day will both fuel the body and minimize fatigue. Also, beginning the day with more demanding tasks and ending with easier work will follow the body’s natural wear and tear throughout the day.
  • Sleep and Nutrition – the body is designed to undergo a lot of stress. The reason for this is that rest, specifically sleep, is like a magic reset button. The body knows how to heal itself during sleep. Problems occur, however, when either sleep is not restful or the body is not positioned or supported properly. Additionally, the body cannot repair itself without the proper nutrients to do so. Without proper sleep and nutrition, the body is unable to completely bounce back from day-to-day stress and trauma.
  • Simple Muscle Care – manual material handlers are basically undergoing a daily athletic training regimen. They are counting on their bodies to perform stressful tasks on demand. Unlike athletes, however, workers don’t necessarily prepare their muscles for activity properly. Imagine bending and stretching a piece of cold taffy. The candy is stiff, hard, and will break or chip under enough pressure. Warm up that same piece of taffy and it becomes flexible and stretchy. Muscles and ligaments are similar. Stretching or using “cold” muscles makes them prone to injury. Warming muscles with light activity before performing manual labor helps reduce the risk of muscle injury.
  • Pace of work – working at a hurried pace places the body and mind under unnecessary stress. Feeling rushed or stressed creates more tension in the muscles, thus making them more vulnerable to injury. Strains and sprains most typically occur from quick, unexpected movements in contracted muscles. Remain aware of your body’s movements and pay attention to any pain signals your body gives you. Those signals are telling you to reposition or stop.

No one wants to endure long-term pain, injury, missed work, or extensive medical costs. Ultimately, there is no substitute for proper body mechanics, ergonomics, and manual handling aids when performing MMH. However, by becoming conscientious of your own habits, you are taking control of how vulnerable your body is to injury. Give your body what it needs, and you will be more likely to withstand the stress that your physical job entails.

Jacob Cummings is the National Sales Manager for PHS West, Inc. He has been with the company for 11 years. PHS West Inc manufactures custom motorized platform carts for a variety of ergonomic applications including medical supply carts, linen carts, cart movers and endoscopy carts.

Article Source:

Article Source:

Like us on facebook

Follow us on Google+

Connect with us on LinkedIn

Need Help?