Monday, October 27, 2014

Heavy Lifting Safety


In the world of material handling, it is common that workers may be subject to lifting heavy products on a daily basis. How to properly lift an item may seem like a no-brainer, but in fact back injuries are one of the leading causes of time off. In 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 36 percent of injuries involving missed workdays were the result of shoulder and back injuries.  The majority of back injuries occurring at the workplace involve using bad posture while lifting or by attempting to lift a load that is too heavy for their own strength.  Today we are going to give a brief reminder on how to properly lift heavy objects in the workplace, in attempts to minimize avoidable lower back injuries. 

Expert orthopedic medical doctor, Jonathan Cluett, sets out an easy to follow guideline on lifting heavy materials:

  1. Plan ahead before lifting. Always be sure that you are aware of your surroundings before lifting a heavy object.  Make sure there are no obstructions on your path and that everyone is on the same page if you are lifting with a partner.
  2. Lift close to your body. You will be a stronger, and more stable lifter if the object is held close to your body rather than at the end of your reach. Make sure you have a firm hold on the object you are lifting, and keep it balanced close to your body. 
  3. Feet shoulder width apart. A solid base of support is important while lifting. Holding your feet too close together will be unstable, too far apart will hinder movement. Keep the feet about shoulder width apart and take short steps. 
  4. Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Practice the lifting motion before you lift the object, and think about your motion before you lift. Focus on keeping you spine straight--raise and lower to the ground by bending your knees. 
  5. Tighten your stomach muscles. Tightening your abdominal muscles will hold your back in a good lifting position and will help prevent excessive force on the spine. 
  6. Lift with your legs. Your legs are many times stronger than your back muscles--let your strength work in your favor. Again, lower to the ground by bending your knees, not your back. Keeping your eyes focused upwards helps to keep your back straight. 
  7. If you're straining, get help. If an object is too heavy, or awkward in shape, make sure you have someone around who can help you lift.
  8. Wear a belt or back support. If you are lifting in your job or often at home a back belt can help you maintain a better lifting posture.

The biggest thing to take out of today’s blog is don’t overdo it! Do not ever try to lift something too heavy for you, as this is when the potential for injury is highest. If you find that you are incapable to lift a certain load, do not hesitate to seek assistance and get help.  By refreshing your knowledge with these simple tips, you will be taking the necessary steps to a healthy lower back.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Kolton Larson
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ladder Safety 101


Sometimes one of the biggest safety issues is too much confidence; thinking that you will never get hurt can often lead to cutting corners and increasing your risk of injury. Climbing ladders is one of the activities that are often a source of injury due to over-confidence. 

According to the CDC, in 2011 there were 113 fatal and close to 50,000 nonfatal ladder fall injuries. These incidents occurred from fall heights of less than 6 feet to greater than 30 feet. You can see most of the height data in the graph below:  

Figure taken from (Occupational Ladder Fall Injuries, 2011)

There are many steps you can take to keep yourself safe while using ladders. Some of the most practical steps you can take are:

  • Make sure your workers are trained. This is often overlooked.  No matter how confident you or your workers are about using ladders, it’s still important to step back and make sure the risks and hazards are fully understood. 
  • Select the Right Ladder. There are many different types of ladders for different types of situations. Ladders also have a Duty Rating, which is given to them by the manufacturer to state the maximum amount of weight that can be safely supported.  
  • Examine Your Surroundings/Safe Setup. Make sure you’re not setting up your ladder in a common walkway so that it’s a tripping hazard. Also, be sure to place the base of the ladder on a level, un-moveable surface. According to the American National Standards Institute, non-self-supporting ladders should be set up at an angle of 75.5 degrees to give the most amount of resistance to sliding while providing additional balance.
  • Climb Slowly & Safely. Always face the ladder when climbing and maintain three points of contact at all times. You need all four of your appendages to keep you safe while climbing. Do not use one to carry something with you; use a rope or pulley system to pull up any equipment you might need. Never overextend yourself from the ladder to try to reach something. If your body extends over the side rail you can cause the ladder to fall over. 
  • Think Before Acting. “I can’t quite reach that nail from here, should I climb down and move the ladder a few feet over so I don’t have to overextend my reach?” Yes. “It’s getting windy, should I wait till the weather calms down to continue working?” Yes. “The ladder doesn't feel totally safe, should I climb down and double check I’m on a level and sturdy surface?” Yes. You can never be too cautious when it comes to your safety. 

Too often the most common safety issues can be fixed by just slowing down, identifying potential hazards, fixing those hazards, and proceeding cautiously. We highly encourage you to take this approach when working with every aspect of your life.  

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Christopher Feigal
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tips for Staying Healthy This Fall


It is no surprise that fall weather is fast approaching. The leaves are starting to change colors, the days are becoming shorter, and the air has a certain coolness to it.  Now although there are many changes in the seasons from summer to fall, there are also many changes that may take place in ones health during this time. This can be easily noticed by the numerous sniffles and coughs that are present in the workplace during the fall and winter months!

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viral illnesses are most commonly acquired and spread in the months of September through April. When an employee becomes sick with an illness, not only is he or she under the weather, but the employer and business is now losing money as a result!  It is estimated by the Center for Disease and Control that US businesses loose roughly $10.4 billion dollars in any given year related to employees getting the influenza virus.  Have no fear though; today we are going to discuss the common illnesses found during these months and tips on how to prevent these diseases.  

Common Illnesses in the Fall
According to Kristina Duda, R.N., Cold and Flu expert, common illnesses include:

The Common Cold
Influenza (The Flu)
Ear Infections
Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Prevention of Diseases
The Center for Orthopedic Care in Bridgewater, NJ, gives out multiple tips on the prevention of these illness during peak cold and flu season:
  1. Wash your hands. In a world with public places teeming with contagious viruses and bacteria, our hands can be our greatest source of infection. We are always touching things with our hands and absentmindedly rubbing our eyes or putting food in our mouths which could be the introduction of an infection into our systems.
  2. Avoid sick people. It is important to remember that people with illnesses are often highly contagious. Try to avoid dealing with sick people altogether, but if it must be done, at least remember to wash your hands afterwards.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep allows your body to recharge and gives your immune system a chance to replenish after a long day of fighting off microscopic invaders. Failing to get enough sleep is setting your body up for easy access to infection.
  4. Cut back on the alcohol. Drinking alcohol monopolizes the resources that your body should use to prevent infections.
  5. Salt water has major benefits. Salt is a natural antibacterial agent. You can squirt salt water up your nose with a Neti Pot or use it to gargle. It cleans the bacteria-riddled mucus out of your nose and helps to fight respiratory infections.
  6. Drink lots of water. Your body will function better if not starved for its most important molecule. Your body is made up of about 60% water and is constantly using water for all vital processes. Replenish your body’s water supply to help yourself run at maximum capacity.
  7. Take vitamins and supplements. While many vitamins can be helpful supplements to your diet, Vitamin D is probably the most important, at least during the winter months. Vitamin D is absorbed into your body right from the sun’s rays, but in the winter months, more time is spent indoors than usual and supplements can help make up the difference.
  8. Eat your fruits and veggies. This helps vary your diet and allows you to get the vitamins with which fruits and veggies are rich. Giving your body the tools to stay healthy is half the battle, and eating fruits and veggies certainly does this.
  9. Try probiotics. These supplements contain live bacteria meant to balance the microflora (bacteria) in your digestive tract. By maintaining this balance, we leave ourselves less susceptible to infection.
  10. Listen to your body. Your body will give you a warning when it’s beginning to succumb to an infection. Whether that warning is a headache, a bad mood or feeling uncharacteristically tired, respond to these warnings by making sure you are keeping up with all the other tips.
It is important to be informed on these common illnesses present during the fall and upcoming winter months. By following these simple tips of prevention this cold and flu season, one will greatly increase the chances of keeping themselves (and others) from illness.  This will result in increased productivity in the workplace and a healthy, happy workforce!

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe (and healthy) this Monday.

Kolton Larson
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, October 6, 2014

Protect Your Feet


Every day the majority of us will take thousands of steps. Whether it’s running errands, working, or playing with our kids, our feet are often what carries us through each day. This is why it’s important to prioritize your employee’s foot safety and ensure that everyone has the proper footwear. 

Not having the proper footwear can lead to common issues such as aching feet, blisters, and sprains. More importantly improper footwear can lead to slips and falls, or even broken bones depending on the work environment. It’s important to assess possible risks in your workplace and to minimize the potential for injuries. 

Some potential foot hazards to look for:
  • Loose nails, sharp metal, or glass objects. 
  • Chain saws, unguarded motors or machinery. 
  • Slippery floors, tripping hazards, or poor lighting.
  • Unsecured heavy objects, which may fall. 

Solutions for these potential hazards are:
  • Become more organized
  • Keep walkways clear of debris or sharp objects. 
  • Have monthly walkthroughs to look for newly developed safety hazards.
  • Place appropriate matting/signage where spills occur frequently.
  • Purchase appropriate footwear, such as slip resistant or steel toed shoes. 

Serious work related injuries occur more often than some might think. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60,000 foot injuries per year result in lost workdays. Actively look for ways to improve work related safety. Taking a little bit of initiative before an accident can end up saving your company thousands of dollars in the future, because according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the average cost of a lost workday foot injury is $9,600. Never underestimate the importance of proper footwear and safety.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Christopher Feigal
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, September 29, 2014

Handicap Accessibility in the Workplace


Every single day, the average worker faces an array of challenges in the workplace.  These can commonly consist of commuting to work through traffic in the morning, finding a good parking spot, or working late after to work to meet a deadline.  Whether it is widely known or not, there are millions of people with disabilities that go to work just like the average worker. However, for these workers with disabilities the challenges can be far more difficult than what they seem to the average worker.  

To make certain that all workers are entitled to the same rights in the workplace, the United States government created the Americans with Disabilities Acts in 1990.  As a business in today’s society, it is important to know how to comply with this to create a positive workplace experience for all employees.  This article will discuss tips on making sure ones business is fully accessible, and will also discuss the benefits of making their workplace handicap accessible. 

Physical Accessibility
According to Title 1 of the ADA, it is an employer’s obligation, “to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.  As reported by, areas in which accessibility needs to be noted include:

  • Parking lots (handicap parking spaces
  • Entrances and exits
  • Fire alarms and emergency exits
  • Desks and personal work space
  • Hallways
  • Stairwells
  • Elevators
  • Restrooms
  • Cafeterias

Like stated previously, as an employer it is important to make sure that their business is within these parameters.  The first step could be to reach out to those with disabilities in ones workplace and assess their needs.  An employer could also seek an Ergonomics team to inspect their workplace and provide tips on how to improve accessibility.

Benefits of Handicap Accessibility Workplace
Once more referring to, an accessible workplace will help one’s business:
  • Increase productivity among workers with disabilities
  • Fully utilize the talent pool of job candidates with disabilities
  • Cultivate an inclusive workplace culture
  • Improve and expand its customer base to people with disabilities by eliminating barriers that may prevent or deter them from accessing the services and products offered
As clearly shown in these benefits, having an accessible workplace will maximize productivity of all workers in today’s society.  

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe (and accessible) this Monday.

Kolton Larson
Demand Generation Specialist, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, September 22, 2014

How to Handle your Hand Truck


Hand trucks are tools intended to make most jobs easier and safer. This may sound like a minor issue but the proper use of a hand truck can reduce one of the most common workplace injuries - back trauma. Like any other tool it is important for the operator to take safety precautions and know how to properly use the device. If not used accordingly the machine intended for safety will end up causing an accident.

The most important thing to remember is choosing the right hand truck for the job. There are many designs depending on what you’re intending to move. Hand trucks come with different size lift plates, 2-wheel or 4-wheel options, electric lifts plates, stair climbing attachments, appliance dollies, and drum handling kits just to name a few. Be sure to do your research and pick the right machine for the job. Some units will be more expensive than others but having the right tool for the job will pay for itself in the long run. If you only need a specific hand truck for one time use, check with your local equipment rental business.

The most common time for injuring yourself is when loading or unloading the hand truck. 2-wheelers look easy to handle, but it's just as easy to lose the load and injury someone. Review this simple guideline for tips on how to safely operate your hand truck.

  • Always place the heaviest objects at the bottom.
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load capacity rating.
  • Place the load so it is over the axle, the weight should not be carried by the handles.
  • Make sure the load is secure so it won’t slip, shift, or fall. Ratchet straps or bungee cords may be needed.
  • Walk forward with a 2-wheeler, don’t walk backwards. 
  • Keep the load in front of you when going downhill and behind you when going uphill.
  • The stacked load should be no taller than shoulder height. You should be able to see over the load.
  • Do not operate the hand truck with wet or greasy hands.
  • Enter elevators by backing in.
  • Never ride or let others to ride on the truck.
  • Make sure the hand truck has received proper maintenance: properly inflated tires, no loose bolts, greased axle and bearings, charged battery, inspect for rust and damage, etc. 
  • Follow proper lifting techniques to place the load on the hand truck. Use your legs, and keep your back straight.

The most important thing to remember is take it slow and be cautious. If you have questions on the capacity rating or proper operation of your hand truck try to locate a model number stamped in the frame or a serial number tag. A quick Google search will usually pull up all pertinent information. Follow these simple tips to ensure a safe experience with your hand truck and good luck with all of your moving and lifting jobs.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Brad Lindemann
Sales Coordinator, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company

Monday, September 15, 2014

Is a spare tire causing your back pain?


A recent Gallup poll conducted from 2008 to 2010 found that overweight individuals (BMI 25+) reported that they had 20% more back pain than normal weight people. As the weight of individuals surveyed increased to a BMI 40+ the amount of pain reported increased to 254% over those that had a BMI under 25! 

Every pound that an individual gains adds strain to the muscles and ligaments of the spine. To make up for added weight, specifically around the midsection, the spine becomes crooked and stressed. The spine develops sciatica and lower back pain from a herniated disc or pinched nerve trying to compensate for the excess weight. You will notice someone with this condition by a crooked torso and an unnatural curve when standing upright. This only gets worse as people age. By the time someone reaches middle age, bone strength, muscle elasticity, and muscle tone will all start to decline.

Individuals that have back pain also tend to lead more sedentary lifestyle. The pain makes it difficult to move around, play sports, or enjoy outdoor activities. This will lead to increased weight gains causing even more back pain. This begins a downward spiral that can be difficult to snap out of. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program not only reduces existing back pain, but will also help prevent chronic and acute back pain problems in the future.

There are many other factors that could be contributing factors to weight gain and back pain. Individuals that are stressed will tend to sleep poorly, have a poor diet and get little exercise. Stress also increases muscle tightness leading to acute back pain. Smokers are much more at risk to develop lower back pain. According to the University of Michigan, nicotine thickens the walls of the blood vessels. The restricted blood flow through the lower back and increases the amount of time for healing and recovery if you have a back injury.

If you are overweight, obese, or working at maintaining a healthy weight, there are many tools at your disposal. Join a gym, go for a walk, or setup a meeting with a dietitian. YouTube can be a great resource for instructions on how to prepare a healthy meal or to find workout videos that can be done in your living room. It’s time to stop procrastinating, start shedding those extra pounds, and rid yourself of that debilitating back pain.

Thank you for your time and attention.  Let’s make it safe this Monday.

Brad Lindemann
Sales Coordinator, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company