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

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