According to the National Safety Council, the top cause of work-related injuries includes bodily reactions and overexertion.
It accounts for approximately 31 percent of all worker injuries and includes:
- Non-Impact Injuries – These occur due to excessive physical effort a person directs to something, such as lifting, turning, pushing, throwing, carrying, and holding.
- Repetitive Motion Injuries – These micro-tasks strain or stress body parts because of the tasks’ repetitive nature.
These activities involve manually handling materials and lifting objects at work, which puts all workers at risk for various injuries. Employers should carefully evaluate all manual handling tasks to ensure safety and avoid injuries by considering the worker’s lifting capacity and the load. Employers should likewise provide lifting aids when necessary.
What Is Manual Material Handling?
Manual material handling involves someone manually moving something by holding, lifting, seizing, turning, grasping, and similar actions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, manual material handling is a top contributor to more than half a million claims of musculoskeletal disorders in the U.S.
These disorders typically involve sprains and strains to the upper limbs, lower back, and shoulders. They often result in pain or disability, medical expenses, and financial burdens for workers who suffer from them.
These are injuries that usually result from lifting and manual material handling:
Any manual handling task will involve the hands, whether you’re lifting, pulling, pushing, or carrying. Depending on what you are handling, it could be dangerous by itself. For example, you could cut your hands if you’re lifting a load with sharp edges or burn your hands when lifting a hot load.
However, hand injuries may also result from putting down a load you’re carrying. For instance, you could bruise or break a finger if you’re putting down a heavy load and failed to get a finger out of the way. Likewise, your fingers could get stuck between the load and a wall or some other nearby obstacle. This is a common occurrence when a group of workers is lifting and moving one heavy load.
Sprains and Strains
Have you ever lifted something and then regretted it right after because it was heavier than you realized? Or maybe because over time, the load became too heavy to carry? This commonly happens in warehouses. But stretching the muscles beyond what they can handle, and doing it over and over again, could result in pain, bruising, and inflammation. Consequently, this can cause sprains and strains in the wrists, arms, shoulders, and back.
Lifting often leads to back injuries, particularly if workers do not practice proper lifting techniques or are constantly lifting loads that their bodies simply can’t handle. However, workers should also be aware that poor posture could likewise injure their back when they’re carrying a load. Additionally, twisting and stooping could make your back more susceptible to injury. The most common back injuries related to lifting include slipped discs and spine problems.
These cover a wide array of pain and issues in the back, upper limbs, and lower limbs. They can likewise result in many symptoms that typically develop over time and worsen without early diagnosis and treatment. Most musculoskeletal disorders that develop at work are due to poor manual material handling and lifting practices, specifically, tasks that require workers to:
- Turn, twist, and bend their necks, backs, and/or torsos.
- Overstretch their muscles to reach difficult-to-reach areas.
- Awkward, uneven, and heavy loads, which could include animals, people, tools, boxes, devices, or other inanimate objects.
- Work in cramped environments with uneven and unstable surfaces or flooring.
Hernias occur when an internal body part pushes against a weak muscle or tissue wall. Repeated strain on the stomach area usually causes hernias. Most cases will require surgery to fix. Likewise, excessive straining by lifting heavy things could cause hernias. Older individuals are also naturally more at risk of developing them.
You may not use your feet for lifting, but manual handling can cause foot injuries if workers drop the load they’re carrying on their feet. The risk of injuring your feet is even higher when workers do not wear proper protective footwear. Dropping a load from height, instead of lowering it carefully, and gripping a load incorrectly could all result in bruised, broken, or crushed feet.
Injuries from Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are common workplace injuries, whether or not you’re manually handling or lifting something. While these accidents typically result from something else other than lifting, manual handling could raise the risk of slips, trips, and falls. When you carry something, it might limit your visibility to some degree, and you might not notice the wet floor, pile of cables, or obstacle on the floor. Additionally, the consequences of tripping or falling while carrying a load could be more serious since you can’t use your arms to break the fall or hold on to something.
What to Do If You Suffered a Lifting Injury at Work
The law requires that most employers in the U.S. provide their employees with workers’ compensation insurance. This type of insurance provides injured employees immediate help with wage replacement and medical bills. If you’ve sustained a minor injury at work and have fully recovered from it, you could easily handle filing a workers’ comp claim by yourself.
However, you should consider getting help from an experienced workers’ compensation claim lawyer if you sustained more serious workplace injuries. Keep in mind that while you might work for the best boss and company, it’s the company’s insurance company that will be handling your claim. A lawyer can help safeguard your legal rights, ensure that you receive the right wage benefits and medical treatment, and handle negotiations with the insurance provider.
Furthermore, take note that some workplace injuries might involve the liability of other parties apart from your employer. A lawyer might help you file a third-party claim to seek full compensation for all your losses after a failure of safety equipment, machine malfunctions, and motor vehicle accidents—in addition to the benefits you can receive from your workers’ comp claim.