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Solutions for reducing injuries when handling heavy items

For some Minnesota employees, lifting heavy objects or materials is a required task. However, in 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that approximately 36 percent of all injuries that resulted in missing workdays were caused by pain in the shoulders and back. Many of these injuries occurred when employees overexerted their back and shoulder muscles when attempting to lift heavy objects or after lifting heavy objects on a routine basis using improper techniques.

There are many possible solutions that employers can implement in order to reduce lifting injuries. For example, if an employee is routinely required to lift objects off the floor, that employee should be trained to use proper lifting techniques. This includes using the legs to lift instead of the back. Additionally, the employee should be taught not to twist their back when lifting a heavy object.

In certain jobs, employees may be required to lift awkwardly shaped or sized objects, such as large spools of wire or objects without proper handholds. This could cause stress on the employee's shoulders, arms or back. If an object has flat sides, a suction tool can be used to make a temporary handle that allows the employee to carry the object safely. For items that come in spools, using a two-person lift system can help reduce the risk of injury, especially if the object is bulky or heavier than 50 pounds.

If an employee suffers a severe lifting injury, they are at risk for being unable to work, especially if the injury requires medical treatment. If the employee is denied their workers' compensation benefits or if the benefits they received did not cover the damages they sustained as a result of the workplace accident, an attorney may assist with filing a lawsuit against the employer's insurance company.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Materials Handling: Heavy Lifting", December 02, 2014

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Law Office of David M. Bialke
7260 University Avenue NE
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Fridley, MN 55432

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