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Reducing Material Handling Claims in the Workplace

- October 18, 2017 by Paula Tetrault (View all posts by Paula)

Do you know what the leading cause of workers compensation claims is each year and one of the most costly? Injuries related to manual material handling and strains and sprains. In fact, manual material handling injuries account for nearly one-third of the total workers’ compensation claims reported each year, with strains and sprains as the most common type of work-related injury.

The National Safety Council reports that pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying and throwing activities at work account for approximately $13.6 billion in costs annually. These injuries can range from a mild strain to permanent disability. More importantly, they can occur in every workplace from an office environment to the most hazardous manufacturing workplace.

How can we prevent strains and sprains? Are there ways to prevent back injuries? When most of us think of safe lifting programs, the first thing that comes to mind is “bend your knees and hold the load close to your body.” This is a time-tested safety rule – important, of course, but there is more to a successful material handling program in any organization.
Education and training is the most important element of any successful program. The program should also include reducing material handling demands by utilizing equipment when practical.
Other ways to decrease manual material handling in the workplace:

    • Plan the work flow. Often poor planning of the work flow results in repeated handling of the same object.
    • Know the weight of objects being handled and if possible decrease the weight of handled objects to acceptable limits.
    • Reduce the weight by assigning two people to lift the load or by splitting the load into two or more containers.
    • Change the type of manual material handling movement. Lowering objects causes less strain than lifting. Pulling objects is easier than carrying. Pushing is less demanding than pulling.
    • Change work area layouts. Reducing the horizontal and vertical distances of lifting substantially lowers manual material handling demands. Reducing the travel distances for carrying, pushing or pulling also decreases work demands.
    • Assign more time for repetitive handling tasks. More time reduces the frequency of handling and allows for more work/rest periods.
    • Alternate heavy tasks with lighter ones to reduce the build-up of fatigue.
    • Plan rest breaks into jobs that could result in overexertion and consider job rotation.

When combining the above elements with an effective training program, you will ensure every employee is aware of the hazards of manual material handling.