Delivery manDelivery drivers are an essential part of the American economy. Chicago business owners and residents alike rely on these professionals to deliver products across the state and around the country. Due to the physical nature of the job, however, delivery drivers are at high risk of becoming injured on the job. CNN Money listed delivery drivers as one of America’s most dangerous jobs, a fact known by workers’ compensation lawyers in Chicago. Whether they are loading trucks or picking up packages to deliver to another location, delivery drivers can easily become victims of lifting injuries.

Bending, twisting, lifting and lowering heavy loads for hours each day can lead to muscle fatigue, back pain and other types of trauma. Some of these injuries can lead to permanent damage and disabilities. Driving professionals should understand the types of lifting injuries that can occur in order to help prevent them from happening.

Back injuries

Over one million workers in the U.S. suffer from back injuries every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A significant amount of trauma can be inflicted when people repetitively lift objects using improper techniques. In fact, one in five workplace injuries involve damage to the back. Back injuries can cause severe pain, making it hard for people to participate in their normal, everyday tasks. They can also limit a person’s range of motion. In some cases, back injuries can become chronic and threaten the driver’s ability to continue working.

Back injuries that are caused by lifting can generally fit into two categories. Immediate trauma can occur when a worker lifts an object. Over a period of time, other injuries can develop as a result of repetitive movements. These types of injuries often involve more chronic, long-term disabilities.

Common types of back injuries that stem from lifting include slipped vertebral discs, herniated discs, nerve damage, bone fractures, chronic pain and degenerative conditions like arthritis.

Shoulder and repetitive strain injuries

Repetitive strain injuries can be linked to occupational activities, such as lifting and carrying heavy objects. These tasks, when performed on a regular basis, may lead to the progressive deterioration of the tissues, tendons, muscles and bones in the back, arms and shoulders.

Sprains, bursitis, tendonitis and muscle tears can occur from repetitive use of the shoulder muscles. Rotator cuff trauma is one of the most common shoulder injuries associated with lifting, a fact known by workers’ compensation lawyers in Chicago.

Inguinal hernias

Heavy lifting and straining may lead to the development of an inguinal hernia, as reported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. A hernia can form when the muscle surrounding the stomach becomes weakened in a certain area. This can cause a pouch of tissue to fall through the weak area. When people have an inguinal hernia, they often feel severe pain in their lower abdomen when they try to lift an object. They may also notice a bump protruding from their lower stomach, which can grow bigger and become increasingly sore.

Factors that influence lifting injuries

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are several factors that can affect the severity and type of lifting injury. These include:

  • How often the person lifts heavy objects. Does the person lift objects on a daily basis, or only occasionally?
  • Duration of lifting activities. How many hours at one time does the person spend lifting objects?
  • Type of lifting technique that is used. Does the person use the proper lifting method that reduces the strain on his or her back?
  • Type of equipment drivers use to assist them in the lifting process. Do people use adequate equipment to help them lift heavy objects?
  • Distinct characteristics of the driver, including body type, gender, age, fitness level and overall physical health. People who have certain traits may be at a higher risk for a lifting injury.

A recent study reported by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that employers can prevent up to one-third of back injuries by implementing proper training programs. These programs should focus on showing employees how to lift objects properly and how to use the right equipment for the job. OSHA suggests that testing the strength of workers may help employers assign people to lifting jobs that they are physically capable of performing. This could reduce the number of injuries that occur and workers’ compensation claims that are filed.

Practice proper lifting techniques

Before lifting a package, delivery drivers should make sure they have firm footing and enough space to move freely, according to OSHA. Workers should stand close to the object, bend at the knees, squat and lift with both hands. It is important to keep the weight of the item equally distributed between both hands and lift with a smooth, continuous motion. Rather than use the muscles in the back to lift the object, workers should lift with their leg muscles.

Drivers should avoid lifting packages with one hand. Lifting boxes in restricted or confined areas or while sitting also increases the risk of injuries. Employers should provide their employees with the proper type of lifting equipment to minimize their risk of injury.

Employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees. When a person is injured on the job, he or she may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits may cover medical expenses, physical therapy and any treatments that are needed for the injury. Workers’ compensation lawyers in Chicago may be able to provide legal assistance to those who are seeking workers’ compensation.

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