A Safety Message About Ergonomics, Repetitive Activities And Proper Lifting

” Avoid the Pain ”

Did you know there is still a place in the world where trained elephants provide the power for a centuries- old operation?  It’s a fact! Myanmar which was formerly called Burma, is one of the few countries to use elephants extensively for logging.

Handlers ride behind the elephant’s head and use hand signals and verbal commands to signal the animals to push, pull or stack the logs.

These beasts of burden are easy to train and loyal to their handlers for life. Despite their size, the elephants are adept at navigating the rough terrain.  However, they have a very sensitive back, which must be protected because they drag logs weighing up to 3,000 pounds over uneven ground.  Each elephant’s handler is responsible for preparing a large pad of leaves and bark to make a thick, soft layer on which the dragging gear is balanced. The saddle-like arrangement prevents the logging chain from straining the elephant’s back.

In most parts of the world machines have taken the place of elephants in logging.  Machines can help us do our work safely and more efficiently.  But operating a machine, working with tools, or even poor posture for extended periods can put us at risk and lead to repetitive stress injuries.

The human back, along with knees, wrists, hands and shoulders must be protected from strain, especially repetitive stress. Injuries from repetitive stress can be extremely painful and can affect your ability to work.  Fortunately, they can be prevented.

*Always be aware of your posture.  Your posture should be relaxed yet upright when sitting, standing or walking.  Good posture also reduces fatigue.

*Rearrange your workstation if possible.  Adjust work surfaces so that they’re not too high or too low for you.  If you’re working overhead, stand on a platform to avoid keeping your arms extended upward.  And place containers, tools and other equipment within easy reach.

*Watch your wrists.  They’re susceptible to repetitive stress.  Keep them relaxed and straight when grasping objects, using tools, or using a keyboard.  Make sure your tools are well –oiled and sharp so you can use them without strain.  Avoid jerky movements, which can cause added stress.

*Try to alternate repetitive activities if possible.  Alternate tasks if you can to avoid repeating the same activities hour after hour.

*Lift with your legs.  You risk serious back strain every time you lift improperly.  Remember, lifting’s a breeze when bend at the knees.

A well trained elephant in the jungles of Myanmar may be able to lift a 3,000 pound log without strain, but we always have to be aware of repetitive stress and strain on the job.  Avoid it and your work becomes a lot easier.

Avoid the Pain of Repetitive Strain

*Copyright Harkins Safety 2005

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