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Safe Lifting Techniques

Safe Lifting Techniques

Back Lifting Ratio 

There is a 10:1 ratio for every lift performed.  For example, if an object is 10 pounds, it takes your back 100 pounds of back pressure to pick up the object.


General Techniques


Everyone lifts, holds, carries, pushes and pulls on a daily basis whether it is during leisure activities or as a part of paid work.  Manual material handling involves lifting light, heavy and awkward objects.  Safe lifting is a critical aspect of daily activities and should be the focus of any manual material handling.  Before you lift, remember the following:


  • Wear supportive shoes;
  • Use lift assists (hand dollies, carts, lift tables, forklifts);
  • Carry all movements out horizontally (e.g., push and pull rather than lift and lower);
  • Always use your body weight and not your feet when pushing;
  • Try to have most workplace deliveries placed at hip height;
  • Always keep objects in the comfort zone (between hip and shoulder height);
  • Keep all loads close to and in front of the body;
  • Keep the back aligned while lifting;
  • Maintain the center of balance;
  • Let the legs do the actual lifting; and
  • Reduce the size of the material to keep it lighti, compact and safe to grasp. 



PLAN THE LIFT prior to lifting as follows:

  • Size up the load, its weight, shape and position;

  • Determine if the load is too large, too heavy or too awkward to move alone;

  • Get help from a coworker or use a mechanical aid device to help with the lift when necessary;

  • Decide on the route to take;

  • Check for any problems or obstacles such as slippery or cluttered floors;

  • Investigate the location where the load is going to be placed in order to anticipate any difficulties; and

  • Always exercise or warm-up the back prior to lifting.




SQUAT LIFTING should be done for a majority of all lifts.  Squat lifting should be performed as follows:


  • Stand as close to the load as possible;
  • Move your feet shoulder width apart;
  • Tighten your stomach muscles so you can tuck your pelvis;
  • Bend at the knees, keeping your back straight and stomach tucked;

Get a good firm grip on the load;

Hug the load close to the center of your body;

  • Lift smoothly with your legs gradually straightening the knees and hips into a standing position; and

Avoid twisting your body as you lift.



CARRYING LOADS should be done as follows:


  • Keep the load close to the center of your body to take full advantage of the mechanical leverage of your body;
  • Do not change your grip on the load unless it is weight supported;
  • Avoid twisting your body without pivoting your feet at the same time;
  • If you must change direction, move your feet in that direction instead of twisting your trunk in that direction;
  • Make sure you can see over the load; and
  • Move carefully toward your destination.


UNLOADING OBJECTS should be done the same way as lifting objects, but in the reverse order as follows:


  • Slowly bend your knees to lower the load;
  • Keep your back straight and the weight close to the center of your body;
  • Allow enough room for fingers and toes when the load is set down;
  • Place the load on a bench or table by resting it on the edge and pushing it forward with your arms and body; and
  • Secure the load to ensure that it will not fall, tip over, roll or block someone's way.



ONE-ARM LOADS are used when carrying items such as pails or buckets.  Lifting and carrying one-arm loads should be performed as follows:


  • Bend the knees and at the waist keeping your back straight;
  • Reach for the load;
  • Grasp the handle of the load firmly;  
  • Lift with your legs not your shoulders and upper back; and
  • Keep your shoulders level while switching hands regularly to reduce overexertion on one side of the body while carrying the load.






TEAM LIFTS are used when objects are too heavy, too large or too awkward for one person to lift.  Team lifts should be performed as follows: 

  • Work with someone of similar build and height, if possible;
  • Choose one person to direct the lift (e.g., "lift on the count of three";
  • Lift with your legs and raise the load to the desired level at the same time;
  • Always keep the load at the same level while carrying;
  • Move smoothly and in unison; and
  • Set the load down together.



OVERHEAD LIFTS should be conducted as follows:


  • When lifting or lowering objects from above the shoulders, lighten the load whenever possible;
  • Stand on something sturdy such as a step stool or platform to decrease the vertical distance; and
  • When you are lowering objects from above the shoulders, slide the load close to your body, grasp the object firmly, slide it down your body and proceed with your move.





Mechanical Aids


Special lifting equipment such as hand trucks, carts, dollies, forklifts, hoists and wheelbarrows can help move loads when they are too heavy, awkward or a coworker is not available.  Although mechanical aids are used, safe lifting procedures should still be followed by maintaining the natural curvature of the back, using the legs for any lifting that is encountered and avoid twisting the back.