Lifting is a common activity on the job site, and it is easy to forget that proper techniques must be used to avoid injury. In fact, the most common work-related injury cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is lower back injuries, which are frequently associated with poor lifting practices.
Safe Lifting Basics
Lifting safely is essential for keeping your back healthy and you safe. There are several safe lifting techniques that can help relieve strain on the lower back:
- Look over the load. Decide if you can handle it alone or if you need assistance.
- When in doubt, ask for help. Moving an object that is too heavy or bulky can cause severe injury.
- Clear away any potential obstacles before beginning to carry the object.
- Support and propel the object while carrying it; your grip should be firm. Carrying objects will change your balance. To keep this change of balance to a minimum, keep the load close to your body and to your normal center of gravity, between the legs and shoulders.
- Use good foot positioning. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, with one foot beside and the other foot behind the object that you are going to lift. This allows you to use the full power of your leg muscles. Leg muscles are stronger and more powerful than back muscles, so let your legs do the work.
- Bend your knees. Bending over at the waist to reach for the object you want to lift puts strain on your back, shoulder and neck muscles.
- Keep your arms and elbows as close to your body as you can while lifting. If you have to stretch your arms out completely away from your body, ask for assistance with the lift.
- Use your feet to change direction. Don’t twist your body. Twisting adds to the stress of the lift and affects your balance.
- To lower the object, bend your knees as you did to pick it up. To place the load on a cart or other elevated surface, set it on the edge and slide it into position. Make sure your hands and feet are clear when lowering the load.
Training and practice are required for safe lifting of heavy objects. When equipment is available, it should be used to lift and transport big items. This is where loaders, forklifts, and hoists come in.
When you’re lifting anything heavy, it’s critical to work as a team. If you’re going to transport the load to another area, make sure you’re both on the same page before lifting the object. Examine the route and the clearance. One employee must be able to supervise and direct the other. Lifting and lowering must be done simultaneously. Allowing the load to reduce quickly without informing your partner is not a good idea.
Your Safety Is Important
Proper lifting techniques safeguard against injuries and make it much simpler to continue working. Before lifting an object, think about what you’re about to do; over time, these safe lifting practices will become second nature.
If you have any questions or concerns about safe lifting procedures, contact your supervisor.
This Safety Matters flyer is for general informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical or legal advice. © 2010, 2014, 2019 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.