Optimise your work with sustainable lifting

Lifting and transporting both small and large items manually is just part of the workday for many people. As long as it’s small, easy-to-handle goods of a reasonably light weight, a lot of people will barely even think about the task in front of them. But as soon as the goods are a bit heavier, it’s important to be aware of how you are lifting and carrying them – and where you put them. "Unfortunately, incorrect manual handling is the reason behind a large number of our reports of sickness and absence from work. Both individuals and companies suffer for it", says Anna Johansson, a specialist in ergonomics and licensed physiotherapist in Halmstad, Sweden.

Regardless of the job we do, we all carry a lot of items throughout the day, some lightweight, some heavy. We’re all taught that it’s best to lift close to the body and use your legs, but it’s important to think beyond that and really consider how we lift things. For example, is there a colleague close by who could help you lift something heavy?

Understand your movements

Anna Johansson visits a lot of workplaces in order to review work practices and organisation together with both companies and employees. The aim is to create a sustainable and healthy work environment for every employee.

"Simple changes in working methods and finding the right tools can simplify heavy and challenging tasks. Often, the trick is to analyse how we actually do things and understand what we can change," says Anna.

Use lifting tools

Problems can arise from a lack of understanding of what type of support tools are available. Ideally, you should avoid carrying things around as much as possible. Use a trolley instead, making sure it’s suitable for the size and weight of the object and is fitted with wheels that are appropriate for the floor on which it’s being used.

"We often put a lot of strain on our back, shoulders, etc. in situations where we could easily reduce the load", explains Anna. "In order to avoid injury, you should push or drag heavy objects using a trolley or similar piece of equipment."

Put things in the right place and lift in the right way

One tip that Anna has is to review how items are arranged on your storage shelving. The items that are most frequently needed and/or the heaviest items should be placed on an easily accessible shelf level, while lightweight goods or more rarely accessed items can be placed on the top or bottom of the shelving.

Don’t forget to think about where you leave goods. Lifting from below knee height puts far more pressure on the back and knees. "If you leave something on the floor, your colleague who fetches it later will have to bend down, which puts more strain on them than necessary", Anna points out.

Ergonomically designed workspace

It is possible to design the workspace more ergonomically in order to make lifting easier. For example, it’s important that there is enough room to lift without having to twist around and that everyone knows how the lifting equipment available works.

"Review how and where your lifting equipment should be used. It should be suited to the work task, work environment and the workers. What weight does it need to lift? How large are the goods? What does the surrounding workplace look like? Investments in ergonomics are beneficial both for employee health and profitability", Anna Johansson finishes.

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