Improving Manual Material Handling

4. Lifting/Lowering: Use Safer Techniques

General Guidelines for Safer Lifting

  • The use of stretching is appropriate as part of a comprehensive ergonomic program. Stretching must not be used in place of engineering and/or administrative improvements.
  • Check for tags on loads.
  • Before lifting, always test the load for stability and weight.
  • For loads that are unstable and/or heavy, follow management guidelines for:
    • Equipment use
    • Reducing the weight of the load
    • Repacking containers to increase stability
  • Plan the lift:
    • Wear appropriate shoes to avoid slips, trips, or falls.
    • If you wear gloves, choose the size that fi ts properly. Depending on the material the gloves are made of and the number of pairs worn at once, more force may be needed to grasp and hold objects. For example, wearing a single pair of heat-resistant gloves can reduce your grip strength up to 40 percent. Wearing two or more pairs of gloves at once can reduce your grip strength up to 60 percent.
    • Lift only as much as you can safely handle by yourself.
    • Keep the lifts in your power zone (i.e., above the knees, below the shoulders, and close to the body), if possible.
    • Use extra caution when lifting loads that may be unstable.
  • When lifting:
    • Get a secure grip.
    • Use both hands whenever possible.
    • Avoid jerking by using smooth, even motions.
    • Keep the load as close to the body as possible.
    • To the extent feasible use your legs to push up and lift the load, not the upper body or back.
    • Do not twist your body. Step to one side or the other to turn.
    • Alternate heavy lifting or forceful exertion tasks with less physically demanding tasks.
    • Take rest breaks.

Lifting from the Floor

Avoid lifting from the floor whenever possible. If you must lift from the floor, do not bend at the waist. The techniques shown below help the worker to keep the spine in a safer position while lifting from the floor.

Caution: This technique may be effective only if loads are small, light weight, and can easily fit between the knees.

Keep the load close to your body and lift by pushing up with your legs
Lean the sack onto your kneeling leg   Slide the sack up onto your kneeling leg   Slide the sack onto the other leg while keeping the sack close to your body   As you stand up, keep the sack close to your body