Back injuries are the most common workplace injury. Approximately 25% of all accidents reported in industry each year involve back injuries. They often result from employees manually lifting equipment or bulk materials.

There is a standard for determining whether work involving manual lifting is reasonably safe. It’s contained in the “Work Practices Guide for Manual Lifting” published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (N.I.O.S.H.). This guide sets standards for acceptable and unacceptable lifting for the average person.

The N.I.O.S.H. guidelines for lifting are based on the weight of the object to be lifted, its distance from the body, and the height to which it is lifted. Some manual lifting beyond established acceptable lifting conditions is permitted with administrative controls, such as matching workers to the physical demands of a task or training workers in how to lift properly.

Lifting that exceeds the maximum permissible limit set by N.I.O.S.H. cannot be done safely by a single worker. Hoists, rollers, conveyor belts, and other mechanical devices must be used to avoid the risk of back injury.

This N.I.O.S.H. guide is not just for employers and employees. It should be referred to by those who design tools and equipment for the workplace as well as by those who package items which will probably be manually lifted in shipping. With this safety standard, back injuries can be predicted and prevented.

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