Manual lifting results in hundreds of thousands of injuries per year and millions of dollars in lost productivity, insurance claims, and related costs. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has come to the rescue with a new app that brings the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (RNLE) to an app for smart phones.
RNLE is an internationally recognized standard for safe lifting. For more than 20 years, employees and safety professionals have used a NIOSH paper manual to calculate the risk of a lift using the RNLE.
NIOSH says the new tool, known as NLE Calc, will help workers in manufacturing, health care, retail, and other industries where lifting is required. The app determines a score based on data entered about the lifting task and provides recommendations to help a worker optimize the task or perform it differently in order to avoid injury.
NIOSH director John Howard, MD, says the app provides a quick, simple way to assess risk. “The information workers used to find in a manual is now in their back pocket and can help prevent one of the most common and costly, work-related injuries,” he adds. Job-related musculoskeletal disorders cause a third of injuries serious enough to lead to missed work. The price tag associated with those incidents is between $45 and $54 billion annually.
The app calculates the lifting index, which is the ratio of the load lifted to the recommended weight limit for the task. The risk level is displayed on the app as yellow (low), orange (medium), or high (red). NIOSH says the tool differs from most commercially available lifting apps by giving workers the option to use the lifting equation to optimize multiple, complex lifting tasks. An example is lifting many objects of various weights in succession or lifting objects in awkward positions.
If a lift is found to be risky, the app suggests alternatives including:
- Bringing the load closer to the body;
- Avoiding twisting while lifting;
- Raising the load to waist level before lifting; and
- Reducing the distance the load must be lifted.
The NLE Calc app for iOS or Android devices is available through iTunes or Google Play.