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The importance of safe manual handling processes in childcare

Did you know..?

The back is the number one body part injured in childcare. Not surprising when you consider that Early Childhood Educators are consistently lifting and moving children, toys and equipment. So how can you ensure the longevity of your back and avoidance of this common injury?

In this blog, we briefly explore the importance of correct lifting procedures and the manual handling of objects of all shapes and sizes, both living and inanimate. A healthy childcare worker is a happy childcare worker, so let’s dive in and explore how to protect your body for the long haul.

As Educators, we constantly spend time at levels outside of our comfort zone. From crouching and bending, to floor based activities - all of these positions make us utilise muscles in awkward ways. From twisting and turning of the spine in crouched positions, to the run-up lifts of toddlers, there are many at risk movements that at any moment can cause a twang of strain, shooting pain or serious injury.

Other common and reoccurring injuries in childcare include:

  • Neck and shoulders - An example of a movement in childcare which creates this injury is reaching for items at a stretch while changing a child’s nappy

  • Arms and wrists - From the repetitive movement of furniture, large play things and equipment

  • Hips, knees and ankles - Caused by the bending and lifting of a child when they have fallen over

These injuries and their examples in childcare can be costly to your centre’s bottom line. From the time spent in recovery to potential work compensation claims, it is essential that we remain accountable and mindful of our movements and lifting techniques.

How to lift safely?

So, next time little Susie runs at you yelling “Pick me up, pick me up!” how can you brace for the impact and protect your back? Well, much like manual handling techniques taught in warehouses and trade roles, it’s all about your technique. Always remember before you lift to keep your back straight, avoid twisting and hold the load closer to your body - the further away you hold an object from your body the heavier it gets!

Recommended maximum weights when holding objects at different arms length

On top of this understanding of weight vs distance held from the body, other important things to remember when lifting include:

  1. Plant your feet - it is important to have a steady and strong foundation of your feet to ensure your body is aligned and core activated. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with the object between them

  2. Remember to squat, not bend - Don’t bend at the waste! Ensure you squat with your chest forward, shoulders back and bum sticking out

  3. Keep your spine straight - try to stay loose and neutral with your spine straight, your goal should be to engage your thighs as the primary muscle

  4. Support yourself - If possible, don’t be afraid to use your hand as a prop off the ground or your thighs for that extra boost when moving up

  5. Keep the object as close to your body as possible

While this process can seem tedious and over-simplified, it is essential for the longevity of your career that you ingrain these processes into your day to day to ensure you protect yourself. Believe us, future you will be thankful!

If you are interested in onsite training for safe manual handling processes in childcare, feel free to reach out on 0423 529 779 to discuss your needs. You can visit our training page on the website for a brief overview as well.

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