A Message About Preventing Strains, Sprains and Safe Lifting

Weigh In On Safety

Can you think of an athletic contest that requires participants to compete barefoot, naked to the waist and begins with a ritual of pounding the floor, tossing salt and a staring match? While the sport is not well-known in North America, the highly specialized form of Japanese Sumo wrestling uses all of these characteristics as part of a pre-match ritual.

The most notable feature of sumo wrestlers is their weight.  The average champion weighs about 360 pounds, but a few weigh as much as 600.  To achieve this great weight they intentionally eat great quantities of food and practice a form of abdominal development.

Each sumo contest begins with an opening ceremony.  Two opponents enter the ring and after flexing their muscles, scatter handfuls of salt around the ring.  Then they crouch, pound the floor with their fists and engage in a staring match to try to shake their opponent’s confidence.

Their great weight gives the wrestlers a low center of gravity, which helps them propel an adversary out of the ring.  The winner is the one who can throw his opponent down or force him out of the ring. Since there are no weight categories, a smaller wrestler must rely on speed and skill to make up for any difference in size.  A combination of size and agility usually wins.

In our business, we don’t place any premium on size, but we do concentrate on working safely.  Since we can’t call a sumo wrestler to help move heavy objects, we need to use mechanical means and follow the rules for safe lifting to avoid strains. A sumo wrestler never turns his back on his opponent.  We can’t afford to turn our backs on safety. If you know how to lift, you can avoid painful back injuries.

Safe lifting starts with your legs.  The strongest muscles in your body are in your legs.  To lift safely you need to get as close to the object as you can.  Keep your back straight, bend at the knees not the waist, grasp the object with both hands and gradually straighten up.  Hold heavy objects close to your body so your arm and leg muscles do the work, not your back.  Bend at the knees and don’t twist your body when you lift.

Sumos sometimes use this same lifting posture to grasp an opponent around the waist and march him out of the ring. This takes great strength and lots of practice.  Safe lifting and avoiding strains and sprains also takes practice. Remember strains and sprains are preventable.

*Lift with your legs, not your back.

*Carry heavy loads close to your body.

*Avoid twisting.

*Work at waist level when possible, bend and reach within limits.

*Keep tools and equipment in proper working order.

*Watch where you walk.  Make sure your route is clear of tripping hazards.

*Stretch daily to increase flexibility

Stay Aware Strains & Sprains can Happen Anywhere

*Copyright 2003 Harkins Safety B166



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



Safety Message About Lifting Properly And Ergonomics

” A Matter of Mechanics ”

In the blistering deserts of the Middle East, archeologists work patiently to gently unearth secrets of three and four thousand years ago.  How were the palaces, temples, pyramids, and even whole cities built without the bulldozers, gantry cranes, “Chicago booms” and all the other sophisticated hoisting devices so common today?

All the evidence seems to indicate that the ancients had only four basic tools—the ramp, the lever, the pulley and a constantly replenished supply of muscle power, both human and animal.

Blocks of stone weighing many tons could be moved and lifted because the ancients understood the rudiments of Mechanical Advantage.

Today durable rugged machine power is substituted for animal power—and the application of human muscle power is kept to a minimum.  But when human muscle power is required—it is still largely subject to the same limitations that applied in ancient times.

Except for some minor changes in musculature—mainly in leg muscles below the knee—the human body of today is almost identical with human structures of the days before Christ.  Today’s human body may be a bit taller, heavier, stronger and more durable, but one similarity continues: the human back is as vulnerable today as it was centuries ago.  It remains the somewhat inflexible support mechanism and compared with other parts of the body, it is a weak link.

In ancient times ruined backs condemned the victims to helplessness, even death.  Slave masters who built the pyramids cared little for the well-being of humans in their charge.  If a body could not lift or pull its weight, they would discard it and bring in a new slave. Today every effort is made to teach and enforce means of avoiding back injuries incurred through improper lifting.

Use the legs and spare the back.  Don’t subject that slender column of bones, discs and ligaments to strains it was not designed to handle.

Use the muscles that were designed for power.  Use legs…keep the fragile back straight.  Bend the knees…let thigh and leg muscles supply the upward thrust required to lift.

Position the feet properly, one slightly ahead of the other…assess the load to be lifted.  Grip it firmly—avoiding sharp or irregular edges.  Plot the path of both the lift and the carry.  Be sure it is free of obstacles and slippery surfaces.  If the load is too heavy, get help in lifting it—rather than help for yourself after you have sustained an unnecessary injury.

Lifting is a matter of mechanics…just as it has always been.  So is protecting the back.  Lifting with the legs will save your back and keep you healthy, pain free and active.

Take advantage of the mechanical advantage like the ancients and remember…


*Copyright Harkins Safety 1999




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