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Proper Lifting Techniques for the Workplace

Lifting heavy items improperly is one of the leading causes of back, leg, and arm pain and chronic injury. Paying close attention to your form and method of lifting, both at home and on the job, is critical when it comes to maintaining a strong, sturdy back.

How to lift a heavy load using a proper lifting technique:

  1. Take a moment and size up the item that you are about to pick up. Are there good handholds that will make lifting the load easier? Where are you planning to set the load down? Is the weight evenly distributed in the load? Test to see if you can lift the load safely.
  2. Once you’ve assessed the situation and are confident that you can lift the load safely, it’s time to set up your proper lifting technique. First, get as close to the load as you can. If possible, slide the load towards you before picking it up.
  3. Make sure your footing is secure. Firm footing on a flat surface is an important part of a safe lifting technique. Furthermore, remember to place your feet shoulder width apart and in the direction you are planning to go once you’ve successfully lifted the load.
  4. Lift the load smoothly, but not too slowly. Avoid twisting or jerking as this can cause unnecessary strain on your back.
  5. Lift the load close to your body. You’ll be more stable if you hold the object close rather than at the end of your reach.
  6. Lift from your knees – don’t be afraid to use your legs. A proper lifting technique requires that you keep your spine straight. Instead of bending your back, try bending your knees. Your leg muscles are far stronger than your back muscles, so let them do the work!
  7. If you’re straining, ask for help. If you’re unable to lift the load using a safe lifting technique, stop. Ask a co-worker to help you execute the lift.

Wear a back belt as a reminder:
While there is no confirmation that back belts prevent or reduce back injury, there is evidence that back supports benefit employees already suffering from back issues. The presence of this device serves as a reminder to workers of the potential for injury and the need for a safe lifting technique. If you prefer to wear a back belt when lifting heavy loads at work, remember that this support doesn’t serve as a replacement for a proper lifting technique. Remember to execute your lift using the proper form, and never attempt to lift an item that is too heavy for you to handle.

Most back injuries are related to five major causes:

  1. Posture
  2. Body mechanics and work habits
  3. Stressful living
  4. Loss of flexibility
  5. Poor conditioning

General awareness and familiarizing yourself with proper lifting technique will go a long way to preventing both acute and chronic injuries. Making these small adjustments in your personal and work-life will ensure a safe and healthy future.