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On-the-Job Lift Injuries Hurt More Than Just Your Back

September 06, 2021By Niko Pothitakis

Although many workers may hurt their back from lifting over other injuries, lift injuries can put stress on and injure multiple body parts.

The Dangers of Manual Lifting

Manual material handling entails moving something manually by either lifting, holding, turning, or performing similar movements. Manual lifting is one of the most common types of manual material handling actions. Like other material handling actions, lifting contributes to a wide range of work-related injuries that affect various body parts.

One of the biggest risks for workers is overexertion, which makes up around 31% of all work-related injuries, according to the National Safety Council. Overexertion injuries can include non-impact injuries that result from strain as an employee invests extra effort in lifting or performing another material handling task. Overexertion can also include repetitive motions that cause injuries over time due to repeated stress.

Many material handling actions, including lifting, cause overexertion and subsequent injuries. The following are some of the most common injuries resulting from manual lifting tasks.

Back Injuries

Back injuries often result from manual lifting, especially when workers don’t practice proper lifting techniques or experience repeated stress from lifting multiple heavy loads over time. Additionally, poor posture could contribute to back injuries. Most back injuries sustained from lifting involve spinal damage and slipped discs.

Hernias

A hernia takes place when an internal body part impacts tissue walls or muscles. Manual lifting tasks that involve movements around the stomach area could lead to hernias. Hernias can cause severe complications and normally require surgery to facilitate recovery.

Sprains and Strains

Workers often lift boxes and other objects that are far heavier than what their bodies can handle. While they may be able to handle the load initially, repeatedly carrying overweight loads could lead to sprains and strains over time as the muscles and tendons experience bruising and inflammation. Sprains and strains could affect body parts such as the back, arms, shoulders, and wrists.

Hand Injuries

Lifting may cause numerous types of hand injuries. For instance, workers may lift an object with sharp edges that causes a cut. Meanwhile, a hot piece of equipment or container could also cause burns to the hands. 

Even when lowering a load, workers could sustain hand injuries in the process. They may get fingers stuck between loads and other objects, or they could break or bruise a finger that’s crushed under the pressure of the material.

Foot Injuries

Workers can also injure their feet when lifting. Dropping a load on their feet could cause serious injury if the material is heavy. Foot injuries may result when workers quickly lower a load because it’s awkward or heavier than they can handle. Incorrectly gripping the material can cause it to slip from a worker’s hands and fall onto his or her feet as well. Broken, bruised, or crushed feet could result, especially if the worker is without protective footwear.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders involve a variety of issues and pain experienced in the upper and lower limbs, along with the back. Symptoms of these disorders tend to develop over time and are likely to get worse without proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Some types of tasks can cause musculoskeletal disorders over time. Twisting or turning different parts of the upper body, lifting awkward or heavy loads, overstretching muscles when reaching areas that are hard to access, or working in tight spaces with unstable or uneven surfaces.

Slip and Fall Injuries

Manual lifting could lead to injuries in slip, trip, and fall incidents. Normally, these accidents result from slippery floors and other factors indirectly connected to lifting, but lifting could increase the risk of slip and falls. When carrying a large load, workers may not be able to see directly below the load and slip on a slick surface, even if a nearby warning is present. If the load is heavy, dropping it in the process of slipping and falling could also lead to more injuries if the load falls onto the worker.

Steps to Take After a Work-Related Manual Lifting Injury

If an employee is injured on the job while performing a manual lifting task, workers’ comp insurance typically helps cover lost wages and medical expenses resulting from the injury. Although workers’ comp is a no-fault insurance system designed to protect workers from the financial burdens that often accompany a serious workplace injury, it isn’t always straightforward. Many injured employees must work with a workers’ comp lawyer to recover compensation.

Following any type of manual lifting injury, it’s in a worker’s best interests to notify the employer as soon as possible and seek immediate medical treatment. Taking these steps can help secure compensation and facilitate a full recovery.