Tips on Lifting

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Most back problems occur over a period of time. Careful attention to lifting on the job and at home and regular exercise to maintain fitness and strength will help you maintain a healthy back. The following principles will assist in lowering your risk of back injury due to lifting.

  1. Size up the load. Test it to see if you can lift it safely. Can you grasp it securely? Good handholds (cut-outs, handles) will make the load easier to lift. Make sure the load is balanced in your hands.
  2. Get as close to the load as possible before lifting it, and kept it close once you’ve lifted it. If possible, slide the load towards you before picking it up.
  3. Keep the load as close to your body as possible. If the load is large and cannot be placed between your knees as they are bent, bend at the hips and waist with your knees relaxed. It is more important to keep the load close than it is to bend your knees. One solution to lifting a larger load is to get another person to help you. A better solution is to use mechanical assistance (hand trucks, carts) to avoid lifting altogether. Safety Training for Employers and Supervisors of Adolescent Farmworkers Better
  4. Make sure your footing is secure. Do not lift objects that obscure vision and footing. Plan ahead and make sure that your travel path is clear of obstructions and that there are no slip hazards such as a wet floor.
  5. Do not twist while lifting! Move your feet so that they point in the direction of the lift as you turn.
  6. Lift smoothly and slowly. Do not jerk the load.
  7. Organize the work so as to avoid lifting from the floor or above shoulder level. Items to be handled should be between knee and shoulder height.
  8. If you have a lot of lifting to do during the day, try not to do it all at once. Alternate lifting tasks with lighter work to give your body a chance to recover.
  9. Use the same principles when lowering or placing the load after lifting.
  10. Try to avoid carrying the load more than 10 feet without getting mechanical assistance like a dolly or cart.

Diagram for lifting technique; Bad is leaning over the object (lifting with your back) and Better is crouching and lifting with your legs.

This tip sheet is based on Quick Tips for Lifting, published by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Safety Training for Employers and Supervisors of Adolescent Farmworkers

Funding provided by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, grant no. 5 U50 0H008107-02

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Publication #: U50 OH07544

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More