We’ve Got Your Back! The Safe Lifting Calculator App Is Helping To Prevent Back Injuries on Job Sites
The construction industry is notorious for its high rate of work-related back injuries. Lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling heavy loads can all cause strains and sprains if executed incorrectly. Add in twisting, bending, or reaching motions, and the risk is even higher for lower back injuries. The costs are huge for everyone — lost job site productivity, pain and suffering.
Back injuries account for a quarter of all construction injuries each year. The Center for Construction Research says one in 100 workers will be injured this way, and on average, be out of work for a week. Many back injuries keep people at home for as much as a month. And repeated back injuries can cause permanent disability. Nobody wants a workers comp claim, and certainly nobody wants a career-ending injury.
Why are back injuries so common?
We don’t really think about what we’re lifting, or how. That goes for constructions workers on job sites, and also for dealership personnel moving equipment attachments around your rental yard or heavy parts around your service and repair shops. In truth, most of us try to lift and carry the biggest load possible, to cut down on trips. Unfortunately, this can backfire, in the form of injury. So the first step toward preventing on-the-job back injuries is always awareness.
But even when safe lifting is top-of-mind, how do you know when the weight is too much? Oregon OSHA has developed a simple mobile app called the Safe Lifting Calculator that construction workers can use on-site. This app is faster and easier to use than the NIOSH lifting equation. In fact, it takes just seconds to click through the three steps to calculate safe lifting weight for the specific task at hand:
1. Step 1 identifies your starting point
The act of lifting significantly affects the amount of weight you can carry without risk. The app asks you to click on the body zone where your lift will begin:
- Top of the head to 3” below the shoulders
- 3” below the shoulders to the knuckles
- Knuckles to mid-shin
- Mid-shin to the ground
2. Step 2 identifies lifting frequency
The chart ask you to click on the most likely number of lifts per minute and hours of lifting in a day. You’ll also check a box if there will be frequent twisting or reaching involved.
3. Step 3 calculates safe lifting weight
Based on the first two parameters, the app displays the maximum amount of weight that is safe to lift.
The Safe Lifting Calculator app is free, and works on Android and Apple mobile devices as well as desktops. If everyone on job sites used this simple app, you could reduce back injuries and actually increase job site efficiency.
It takes more than an app to prevent back injuries
You can assure safe lifting with better advance planning, modifying how workers approach tasks, and through ongoing training. All of these tips can help:
- Deliver materials as close as possible to where they will be needed, to eliminate unnecessary carrying. This will speed up work, too.
- Store and work with materials at waist height, whenever possible. For example, masons use adjustable scaffolding, pipefitters and others use tables or special stands.
- Keep walkways and floors dry and clear of debris or objects that might cause trips or trips – carrying a load often causes blind spots.
- Encourage workers who lift and carry frequently to take breaks more often, because fatigue leads to injuries.
- Ask someone to help, or use a dolly, cart, hoist, or forklift instead – especially for any load that weighs more than 50 pounds.
- For awkward loads such as sheetrock, use carrying tools that have handles.
- Keep loads close to your torso. Turn your entire body if you have to twist while lifting or lowering the load.
Following all these tips and using the Safe Lifting Calculator will help prevent your company and workers from becoming back injury statistics.