CCOHS Safety Tips: Oh, my back!

How to lift loads to avoid injury

Each year, several thousand workers are permanently disabled by back problems. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Each year, several thousand workers are permanently disabled by back problems. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Every worker who performs lifting tasks is at some risk of musculoskeletal injury. About 75% of Canadian workers suffer pain due to a back injury at some time, accounting for about one-third of all lost work claims and 40% of all compensation costs.

Injuries will be reduced when employees apply these safe lifting techniques:

  • Wear lightweight, flexible clothing that won’t easily tear, avoiding exposed buttons, zippers or loose flaps that could catch in the load; safety boots with toe caps and slip-resistant soles; and protective gloves.
  • Ensure the path is clear of obstacles, debris and slip hazards such as grease, oil, water and litter.
  • Warm up muscles with gentle stretches.
  • Test the load for shifting contents and weight. Use hoists, lift trucks, dollies or wheelbarrows for heavy loads.
  • Stand close to the load in the direction it will be moving, with feet wide apart to maintain balance. Use both hands, balancing the load evenly between both arms.
  • Lift with a comfortably straight, tightening abdominal muscles and bending legs so they do the work.
  • Lift smoothly, avoid jerking and keep the load close to the body, between shoulder and knee height.
  • Avoid twisting and side bending. Step or pivot, turning the whole body.
  • Plan where to set the load down, ideally on a raised platform that won’t require any bending. Avoid placing loads directly on the floor.
  • Rest and alternate between heavy and lighter loads.

This article was provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). The not-for-profit federal corporation provides information, training, education and management systems to promote the health and safety of Canadian workers.

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