Safe Lifting Techniques
As part of the goal of accident prevention, we want to provide education to everyone on safe lifting techniques in order to prevent back injuries. Please note the information and diagram below which outline the basic rules for proper lifting.
Quick lifting tips:
- Before lifting, make sure your path is dry and clear of objects that could cause a fall.
- Bend your knees and keep your back straight. (Lift with your legs, not your back.)
- Bring the load close to your body.
- Lift in a slow, even motion.
- Don't twist your body. If you must turn, move your feet.
- Keep your back straight when putting down the load.
The weight of the objects you lift is an important factor in determining your risk of injury, and you will want to be especially careful when lifting heavy items such as storage boxes full of files and cases of copy paper. However, weight is not the only thing that determines your risk of injury.The following chart notes the effect that posture can have when combined with lifting different size loads:
More on lifting techniques:
- Keep the load close: Holding a 20 pound object with your hands 20 inches from the body creates more compressive force on your low back than holding it 10 inches away. This is because the muscles in your back have to work harder to counterbalance the weight when it is further from the body. As the compressive force on your low back increases, so does the risk of muscle strains, ligament sprains and damage to disks in the spine.
- Avoid lifting from the floor: Lifting from the floor can greatly increase your risk of injury for two reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to bring objects close to your body when picking them up from the floor, especially large objects where your knees can get in the way. Secondly, your low back must now support the weight of your upper body as you lean forward, in addition to supporting the weight of the item you are lifting. Lifting the same 20 pounds from the floor more than doubles the amount of force on your low back when compared with lifting it from waist height. Even a one pound object lifted from the floor increases your risk of injury if you use a bent over posture.
- Plan ahead: Decide how you will lift, carry, and place the item before you pick it up. Test the weight of the load by moving or tipping it before you pick it up. Figure out if you can break the load down by placing the contents of a large container into a number of smaller ones before moving them.
- Get help when you need it: Don't try to lift heavy or awkward loads on your own. Even though the muscles in your upper body may be strong enough to handle the load, the muscles, ligaments and disks in your low back may not be because of the additional forces they have to withstand. Get help from a co-worker, and whenever possible, use a cart, hand truck or other mechanical device to move the load for you.