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Don’t Pull – Push !

- October 25, 2013 by Guest Bloggers (View all posts by Guest)

Recently I was talking to a safety manager who told me about an employee who was injured pulling a cart.  The employee needed to move a heavy object from the storage yard to shipping and receiving, and, to prevent a strain injury, he transferred the heavy material onto a four-wheeled cart. However, as he was pulling the cart behind him, it ran up the back of his foot, severely injuring his Achilles tendon.

When pulling a heavy object on a cart, it can be incredibly difficult to stop the cart if you suddenly need to come to a halt.  Unfortunately this is a perfect example of the cart continuing to move after the employee had stopped.

How could this have been prevented?  If he had pushed the cart instead, there might have been a better outcome.

What’s wrong with pulling?

  • When pulling, your hip receives a lot of twisting motion, making the hip subject to an injury.
  • When pulling, your foot and/or ankle become the target of the object being pulled. You could be struck by a cart, as happened to the employee in our real life example, or you might accidentally trip and fall.
  • Pulling can lead to injuries in the hamstring muscle.
  • Pulling can easily lead to a twist in your back as you move, and then…OUCH!  A back injury.
  • Pulling can also lead to injuries in your shoulders, neck, or wrist.                                                    

As you can see, from a safety standpoint, pulling heavy items tends to result in injuries.  This is why safety professionals often recommend pushing.  Why is it better to push instead of pull?

  • Pushing gives you more control over the object being moved. If you need to stop suddenly, the heavy object you are pulling is not going to run you over and it is easier to stop and slow the object from behind.
  • You are using larger muscles which provides better leverage and less strain on the body.
  • You have a better view of where you are going without needing to turn your head to see your path.  (This is only true if the object being moved does not block your vision.  If this is the case, you will need to get help, or pulling might become necessary.)

While pushing is ideal, it’s not always an option.  Sometimes objects must be pulled.  When this is the case, taking a few precautions can reduce the likelihood of injury.  You should get help to move the object, or, if possible, use mechanical means.  A forklift or pallet jack can better handle heavy loads.  Another option that can sometimes help is reducing the load, or lightening the object that has to be moved.  When all else fails, try to ensure you have a clear path and engage other employees in assisting you with the move.