How To Lift Safely


Preventing back injuries is a major workplace safety challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Further, one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering of employees.

Moreover, though lifting, placing, carrying, holding and lowering are involved in manual materials handling (the principal cause of compensable work injuries) the BLS survey shows that four out of five of these injuries were to the lower back, and that three out of four occurred while the employee was lifting.

In order to prevent back injuries, follow these safe lifting tips.

PART I – Basic Lifts

Plan Your Move

• Size up the load and make sure your path is clear. (Note: Lifting loads heavier than about 50 pounds will increase the risk of injury.)

• Do not attempt to lift the load alone if it is too heavy or awkward. GET HELP!

• Keep the load close to your body.

• Use your thigh and leg muscles, not your back, as you lift in one smooth movement.

Principles of Lifting

• Have feet shoulder width apart, with the load between them.

• Get a firm grip on the load.

• Keep your arms and elbows close to your side
• Bend your knees and hips keeping your back straight.

Safe Carrying

• Keep a good grip on the load.
• Keep the load close to the body.

• Keep loads at a reasonable height so you can see where you are going.

• Pivot with your feet – don’t twist your back when carrying loads.

Lower Material Slowly and Smoothly

Use the lifting principles but in reverse.

• When lowering a load onto a deep shelf, put it on the edge of the shelf and push it into place.
• Push rather than pull.

A. If a person pulls while facing in the direction of travel, the arm is stretched behind the body, placing the shoulder and back in a mechanically awkward posture, increasing the likelihood of injury.

B. Research demonstrates that people can usually exert higher push forces than pull forces.

• Pull rather than carry.

PART II – Modified Lifts

Two-Person Lift

• Both persons should be about the same height

• One person takes charge of the lift, so that you are working together not against each other.

• Lift together, walk in step and lower the load together.

Golfer’s Lift

• Use the golfer’s lift to pick up light, small loads when you can’t bend your knees or get close to the object.

• Swing one leg straight out behind you.

• Keep your back straight while your body leans forward.

• To help support your body, place one hand on your knee or on a nearby solid object.

One-Person Lift – Sacks
• Stand at one end of the sack.
• Lift it to an upright position.

• Straddle the load. Place one hand under the bottom of the sack and use the other to hold the sack against your body.

• Bend the knees and lift the sack onto a platform

• Stand as close to the lifting platform as possible

• Bend the knees until the load can be balanced onto your shoulder.

Straighten up in one smooth movement.

• If the sack is small, place it in a box with handles and carry.

If you need assistance with training in your workplace on safe lifting, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or



Back Injuries-Nation’s #1 Workplace Safety Problem. Fact sheet OSHA 89-09, U.S. Department of Labor.

Safe Lifting and Carrying. Industrial Accident Prevention Association, May 2008


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