Always Provide Assistance to Address Lifting Exposures

Loss Amount: $282,000

Situation: After a client purchased dog food, a veterinary receptionist in her mid-twenties offered to help the client carry the dog food from the hospital to a car. Without asking for assistance she lifted the two cases, weighing in excess of 30 pounds, and while she was walking with it sustained a lower back strain.

Initially, the employee’s injury was not thought to be too serious. She was treated, began a series of physical therapy sessions, and returned to work on modified duty. Her condition worsened, however, and she found herself unable to function on the job, regardless of the employer’s efforts to accommodate her. Ultimately the employee’s injury required surgery, a prolonged recovery, and rehabilitation for another job outside of the veterinary industry. Even after all the treatment and associated assistance, this injury has left the person with a significant permanent disability that will affect her for the rest of her life.

Lesson Learned: This case illustrates the importance of providing staff with lifting assistance at all times, regardless of whether employees think they may need it or not.

Actions that can be taken to minimize this loss potential include:

  • Place a large or folding luggage-type dolly in the immediate proximity of any area where there are lifting exposures. If these aids are not easily accessible they will not be used.
  • Set a lifting maximum for all staff not to exceed 20 pounds. If something weighs more than that staff should be required to use a lifting aid, get help, or both.
  • Instruct new and existing staff on the lifting requirements. Have employees formally document their understanding of, and agreement to abide by, any such management policies and document any changes in policy likewise thereafter.
  • Enforce the rules. Be observant of staff and counsel employees who violate the policies. If the rules are not being followed, discuss them during training meetings to determine why and the changes that may need to be made to successfully minimize the lifting exposure.

Emphasis here is on the use of mechanical aids to decrease lifting hazards, rather than on the proper way for employees to lift, which has proven to be much less successful at preventing injury.

For further assistance in preventing all types of losses, call VISC at 888.762.3143.