Preventing Back Injuries Through Proper Lifting Techniques

Preventing Back Injuries Through Proper Lifting Techniques

Assess the situation
Before lifting or carrying a heavy object, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Can you lift this load safely, or is it a two-person lift?
  • How far will you have to carry the load?
  • Is the path clear of clutter, cords, slippery areas, overhangs, stairs, curbs or uneven surfaces?
  • Will you encounter closed doors? Ask someone to hold the door open, or place a wedge under the door to keep it open.
  • Once the load is lifted, will it block your view? Will you be able to see over the top of the load?
  • Can the load be disassembled, carried in pieces and then reassembled?
  • Should you wear any personal protective equipment, such as gloves or safety shoes? The proper gloves can improve your grip as well as protect your hands.


  • Size up the load. Test the weight by lifting a corner of the object. If it is too heavy or if the object is an odd shape, stop.
  • If there is any doubt, ask for help. Two or three lifting a heavy object is safer than trying to do it yourself.
  • Use a hand truck, pushcart or mechanical lifting device
  • Never lift anything unless you are sure you can do it safely using proper lifting techniques.
  • Avoid overloading.
  • Stretch out or “warm up” your back to increase circulation.

Lifting techniques:

  • When lifting, always keep your back straight or slightly arched. Let your legs do the lifting. Your leg muscles are powerful; the muscle bundles in the legs are each 8 to 10 inches or more in diameter, compared with the very thin 1/4- to 1/2-inch layer of muscles along the back.
  • Start by placing your feet close to the load. Get firm footing.
  • Center your body over your feet.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Squat down like a weightlifter, bending your knees and keeping your back straight or slightly arched.
  • Grasp the load securely with your hands and pull the load close to you. The farther the load is from your body, the heavier it will feel.
  • Smoothly lift straight up. Never twist your body while lifting. Keep your head up and look straight ahead, not down.

Carrying the load:

  • Continue to keep your back straight or slightly arched.
  • Walk slowly and surely.
  • Shift your feet to change directions. Never twist your back. Twisting puts a grinding, compressive weight on the cartilage in the spine; repeated frequently enough, the action can cause cartilage failure.
  • Avoid leaning forward or backwards.
  • Avoid lifting over your head.
  • If you become tired, set the load down and rest for a few minutes.

Setting the load down:

  • Position yourself where you want the load.
  • Squat down and let your legs do the work.
  • Remember not to twist your body while setting down a load, and keep your head up.
  • Once the load is where you want it, release your grip. Never release your grip until the load is secure.

Hand trucks and pushcarts:

  • It is easier and safer to push than to pull.
  • Stay close to the load, try not to lean over and keep your back straight and arched.
  • Use both hands to control the hand truck or cart.
  • Use tie-downs, if necessary, to secure the load.
  • Avoid stairs and inclines. Use the freight elevator if available.