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October 2017
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New app aims to reduce injuries caused by manually lifting

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announces the availability of a new, free mobile application (app) for smart phones and other mobile devices that can help workers stay safe when manually lifting objects as part of their job. The app, NLE Calc, is based on the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (RNLE), an internationally recognized standard for safe lifting.   The new app is designed to assist workers in manufacturing, healthcare, retail and other industries where lifting is part of the job. NLE Calc determines a score based on the data you enter about your lifting task and provides recommendations to help you optimize the task, or perform it differently, in order to prevent injury.   “NLE Calc is a quick and simple way for a worker to assess their risk for injury before they manually lift an object,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, MD. “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.”   Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD), common in industries where lifting is part of the job, cause one-third of work-related injuries resulting in missed workdays, costing about $45 to $54 billion annually in lost productivity and treatment, according to estimates from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.   Based on the user’s input, the app calculates the lifting index, which is the ratio of the load lifted to the recommended weight limit for the lifting task, and displays the risk level as yellow (low), orange (medium), or high (red). Unlike most commercially available lifting apps, NLE Calc also gives workers the option of using the composite lifting equation to optimize multiple complex lifting tasks, for example lifting many objects of various weights in succession or lifting objects in awkward positions.   In addition to calculating the lifting index, the app provides users with recommendations to optimize the lifting task. Some examples of recommendations include the following:

  • Bring the load closer to the body.
  • Avoid twisting while lifting.
  • Raise the load to waist height before lifting.
  • Minimize the distance the load must be lifted.

Workers, employees, and occupational health professionals around the world have been using the Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (RNLE) for over 20 years to assess risks associated with lifting tasks, to prevent the onset of lower back pain, and to reduce WMSD. The manual outlines requirements and limitations to use the RNLE, procedures to assess physical demands of a lifting job, and sample problems to demonstrate how the equation can be applied to various workplace scenarios.
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