Affecting so many emergency services providers (around 40% of work injuries), the back injury can be devastating to career and ability. What may seem like minor aches and pains are often the forewarning that something isn’t right, and they should always be viewed that way. In 2013 the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics looked into its 21, 749 reported cases of injury and fatality. 9, 290 of these cases reported a back injury – that’s 43% of all cases.
Manual handling incidents are the main cause of injury in EMS; proper lifting technique in such a physical job is vital. Firstly, always, always consider the load and your own physical ability. If you and your partner cannot perform the lift safely, always request assistance. If that is no problem, ensure correct lifting technique.
When lifting a stretcher, make sure to have feet planted shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly ahead, and rest your center of gravity (your weight) on your feet. With a straight back, chin up and shoulders back throughout, slowly bend at the knees. Ensure you slowly and smoothly lift the stretcher, maintaining a strong core, strong legs and ergonomic position.
Seems simple, but many lift from the arms or strain the lower back through poor manual handling practices. Manual handling should be practiced consciously and properly at all times, otherwise the risk is run of serious long term back injuries (and debilitating pain) and a significantly shortened career. Not just an impact on work, but on personal life too. Further, compensation cases are likely to not view you favorably if your manual handling techniques were not ideal. Perhaps that patient doesn’t need to lie down on the stretcher, and if they do, perhaps your technique should hold concern for all involved.
Always, always lift safely, be careful, and if you need help to lift without straining yourself; ask for it!