SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Safe Lifting Techniques
Back injuries lead to more lost days of work than any
other kind of injury or illness. Of the 1.3 million
reported lost-time injuries and illnesses in 2017,
sprains and strains were by far the largest category, 43
percent according the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of
these, most were back related.
What is the most common type of injury at work?
Overexertion Injuries - this includes injuries related to
pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying, and throwing
activities at work. Overexertion not only consistently been
the number one workplace injury according but is also the
Now let’s focus on your workplace. Can you think of
even one job or occupation where you never have to lift an
object? I can't. Lifting of objects can range from very light
objects such as a piece of paper, a pin or a pen to very
heavy objects like loads of boxes. Lifting is very much a
part of our every day jobs. And, because it is something
we do so often, we tend to do it without thinking, or at
least we do until we strain a muscle, or worse, hurt our
Lifting incorrectly can result in a variety of injuries. Back
strain is a very common one. It results from over-stretching
certain muscles, but it can be avoided by practicing
safe lifting techniques. A hernia is another injury associated
with lifting. A hernia does not generally result from a
single lifting effort. It is usually the result of continued
extreme exertion, especially done contrary to the structure
Don't underestimate the importance of being in good
physical condition. Years of poor posture, overeating, lack
of exercise, stress and improper lifting can catch up with
you. Learn how your back works and what you can do to
keep it strong. Ask for your physician's recommended
stretching, warm-up, and reconditioning exercises; then
practice them regularly.
Safe lifting plays an important role in keeping your back
healthy. Although there doesn't seem to be just one right
method to lift an object, there are lifting techniques that
take strain off the low back area.
These techniques have several steps in common. They
recommend you "size up the load". That is, look it over.
Decide if you can handle it alone or if you need help.
When in doubt, ask for help. Moving a box or other object
that is too heavy for one person is not worth strained and
sore back muscles.
You should also "size up the area". Look over the area
where you are carrying the object to, and make sure it is
clear of obstacles before beginning to carry the object.
For that period of time spent lifting, the load becomes
a part of your body. You support and propel the object
while it is attached to you. This attachment should be firm
and sure. Get a good grip.
Attaching yourself to a load will change your balance. To
keep this change of balance to a minimum, keep the load
close to your body, to your normal center of gravity
between the legs, between the shoulders.
Good foot position allows you to keep your balance and
bring into play the full power of your leg muscles. Leg
muscles are more powerful and more durable than back
muscles. Let your leg muscles do the work. Again, footwork
is important once you avoid twisting your upper
body. Use your feet to change direction. Don't twist your
body. Twisting compounds the stress of the lift and affects
When you have someone helping you lift an object,
teamwork becomes important. If you're going to be carrying
the load to another point, both of you should decide
in advance how it is to be handled. Check the route and
clearance. One person should be the leader and be in a
position to observe and direct the other. Lifting and lowering
should be done in unison. Don't let the load drop
suddenly without warning your partner.
Everyone has a way of lifting that seems most natural.
Examine yours to see if you are using lifting techniques
that reduce strain on your lower back. As the employee
making the lift, you're being counted on to make lifts that
are safe and comfortable for you based on the items we've
General Lifting Rules
- Stay in shape.
- Prepare to lift by warming up the muscles.
- Size up the load; ask for help, if needed Stand
close to the load, facing the way you intend to
- Use a wide stance to gain balance.
- Ensure a good grip on the load.
- Keep arms straight.
- Tighten abdominal muscles.
- Tuck chin into the chest.
- Get a good grip.
- Keep the load close.
- Keep your balance with footwork.
- Let your leg muscles do the work.
- Don’t twist your body.
In closing, OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration, does not have a specific regulation
for back safety, but training employees to lift safely is
implied by the General Duty Clause of the Occupational
Safety and Health Act of 1970. The law requires employers
to provide employees with a workplace that is “free of
recognized hazards.” OSHA has stated that it will not
focus its enforcement efforts on employers that have
implemented effective ergonomic programs or that are
making good-faith efforts to reduce hazards that cause
worker strains and sprains. “Ergonomics” is the science of
designing the job, equipment, and workspace to fit the
worker. Back safety is a cornerstone of an effective
Should you have any questions or need answers to your
safety & health questions, you can e-mail me at jpodojil@
podojilconsulting.com. Thanks for reading this important
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.