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Work may cause a back injury or it may aggravate a per-existing back problem. In either case, the resultant low back pain can be extremely disabling.

Listed are some good principles on manual material handling.

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Some of the important principles are:

Activate your core muscles.

  • To protect your spine, tighten your abdominal muscles. This will generally activate the rest of your core muscles.
Maintain the natural inward curve of your low back.

  • This curve has a tendency to flatten when you bend or sit, increasing the strain on the low back.
  • Looking forward (not down) during a lift helps to maintain this curve.
Keep objects that you are lifting or carrying close to your body.
  • The farther the object is from your body, the greater the strain will be.
  • Slide objects close to you before lifting them.
  • When squatting to lift, do not let your knees get between yourself and the load? If the load is not too wide, spread your knees apart so you can bring the load close to your belly.
Work with your upper body as close to upright as possible.

Leaning forwards or sideways puts extra strain on your back. Wherever possible:
  • Position items that you handle so that your hands are in the safe lifting zone (between mid-thigh and shoulder height).
  • Keep loads that you must handle manually off of the floor (unless their handles are in the safe lifting zone).
  • For low-level work, bend your knees, squat or kneel. Consider a longer handled tool.
If you can't work upright, resting a hand or elbow on your knee or another object will take some of the load off of your back. Other objects that you could lean on:
  • A nearby table or chair.
  • The top of a deep container into which you must reach.
  • Any surface within a comfortable reach.
Minimize twisting of your spine.
  • Move your feet or swivel your chair instead of twisting at the waist or neck, so that your hips and shoulders are facing in the same direction.
Push, don't pull, whenever possible.
  • Pulling an object you are facing puts more strain on back muscles than pushing it. Exceptions:
  • Some objects don’t move as easily when pushed, especially when terrain is bumpy or rough.
  • Pushing may not be safe if the object you are pushing obstructs your vision and you can’t see where you are going.
  • If you must pull something, try to use 2 hands to avoid twisting.
Use sudden quick movements with care. 
  • If not performed carefully, sudden quick movements will put more strain on your back than moving more slowly (e.g., avoid jumping from loading docks or high vehicles).
  • Unexpected movements are more likely to cause injuries than deliberate movements.
  • Wear shoes with good traction and support and keep-walking surfaces clear to avoid slips, trips or falls.
  • Make sure objects you are moving do not shift during transport.
  • Proper storage will minimize injuries related to sudden movements to catch falling objects. 
Use a footrest for prolonged standing.
  • A footrest can be used to help avoid static postures.
  • Vary standing postures by shifting body weight from both to one or the other leg.
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