Step 1 of the MoveSMART® 4-Step Plan for Personal Control is Shield Yourself. This suggests setting up for safety before you physically do a task. It usually includes using proper PPE; rounding up the right tools and equipment; being in strong, balanced position to do the work, and adjusting your position, alignment and forces as you work.
A fine-tuning aspect of Shielding Yourself is to check items you’ll be moving or lifting for weight, balance and handle-ability.
If people rush (or are distracted) when lifting, pushing, or pulling, the load may “surprise” them. When the item is lighter or heavier than anticipated, or if it is more or less stable than you thought, the potential for injury increases. (Have you ever pulled hard on a drawer you thought would be hard to budge, and it wasn’t? Kind of like those cartoons where some gets ready to push open a heavy door but someone else suddenly opens it.) Shifty loads are also much trickier to handle than ones with stable contents.
When training and coaching, it’s a good idea to include a “test the load” suggestion as part of Shielding Yourself. A simple trial-nudge before exerting much energy into the task lets you sample what kind of load you’re actually dealing with.
To protect yourself against surprise loads, remember that a gradual steady pressure is almost always safer than a sudden jerky motion. Smooth movement gets the job done and provides more control. (See ourCreating and Transferring Momentum blog)
The same testing principle applies when walking across potentially unstable or slick surfaces. To get a sense of how slippery or firm the surface is, step forward with one foot and “feel” the footing before you shift your weight. That “feel” gives a better sense of how to move forward safely.
Testing increases safety a great deal – and doesn’t take a lot of time.