Safe Lifting Techniques in the Workplace
Anyone who has ever picked up an item only to feel a muscle “pop” or tear knows this everyday activity can cause injury. Overexertion lifting and lowering injuries are among the most common causes of injury at work, and the fifth leading cause of missed workdays.
The following proper lifting techniques lower the risk of workplace lifting injuries and should be used no matter how heavy the load carried. Remember, it’s possible to suffer a lifting injury by bending incorrectly to pick up a piece of paper on the floor, so never assume something’s so light you can ignore safe lifting techniques.
Proper Lifting Techniques: A Step by Step Guide
Assess the Load. Before lifting anything, consider its size and dimensions. Is it too heavy or bulky to lift without help? If so, ask for help. Do a quick check of the route you'll take while carrying the load: Is it clear of tripping hazards, obstacles, and debris?
Warm Up. Warming up prior to lifting a heavy load is one of the most-overlooked safe lifting techniques in the workplace, perhaps because people feel self-conscious stretching or performing some light calisthenics before lifting. Warming up increases blood to the muscles, allowing them to perform better when lifting.
Protective Gear. Before lifting put on appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and back braces.
Get in Close. The further away you are from the load when you start to lift, the greater the force on your back. Stand as close to the load as possible when lifting, while positioning your feet at shoulder width with one foot angled slightly forward to help maintain your balance.
Lower Yourself Properly. You've no doubt heard the old “lift with your legs, not with your back” adage. This advice also holds true for lowering yourself into position to pick something up: keep your back straight and use your knees and hips to lower yourself into position.
Get a Firm Grip. Get a firm grip on the load with both hands. If the item is too bulky or awkwardly shaped to allow you to use both hands, recruit someone to help.
Lifting. Seven steps into safe lifting techniques in the workplace and we’ve only just got to lifting the item—which only shows how important preparation is for proper lifting techniques! Bend your knees and keep your back straight as you lift, tightening your core and exhaling at the same time. This allows the stronger leg muscles to take most of the strain instead of the weaker muscles in the back. Keep the load close to your body as you move to your destination.
Lowering Loads. Proper lifting techniques must be maintained when lowering a load, as overexertion injuries are possible when putting items down as well as picking them up. Lower the load with your back straight, bending at the knees and keeping the load close to your body.
Actions to Avoid when Lifting and Carrying Objects
Knowing what not to do when lifting, moving, and lowering objects is as important as using proper lifting techniques. Avoid the following:
- Holding your breath while lifting.
- Lifting/lowering and twisting your body at the same time.
- Twisting at the waist while carrying something. Instead, turn slowly using your feet.
- Obstructing your vision with the object being carried.
- Throwing boxes, bags, or other loads.
- Working while fatigued.
- Rushing while lifting or lowering loads.
- Reaching overhead.
Training and Safe Lifting Techniques in the Workplace
Training employees in safe lifting techniques should be part of your company’s safety program. Any work environment requires lifting at some point, whether employees work in warehouses or administrative settings. TPC Trainco offers seminars on proper lifting techniques in industrial settings and office environments, to help keep your employees on their feet with the least risk of overexertion injuries.