Whether it’s a large part of your job or an occasional task, lifting can be risky.
Because lifting is a common activity, workers often fail to consider the risks. That is, until they develop back pain or experience other symptoms resulting from improper lifting.
Lifting incorrectly for an extended period can lead to a variety of injuries. Back strain, which occurs when you overstretch muscles, is the most common type. More serious injuries, such as damaged or herniated disks, can also occur.
Using safe lifting techniques can help reduce the possibility of all types of back injuries.
Safe lifting tips
No single lifting technique applies in all situations, but you can help avoid back injuries during any type of lift by following these tips:
- Size up the load. If you can’t handle it alone, ask for help.
- Inspect your intended path. The path of least resistance is most often best. Map your route. If possible, remove any obstacles or possible hazards.
- Keep a firm footing. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and wear well-supporting work shoes.
- Bend at the knees. Don’t bend at your waist.
- Let your legs do the work. Leg muscles are stronger and more durable than back muscles.
- Grip your load firmly and use work gloves (if necessary). For greater strength and stability, lift and carry the object near your waist, and keep the load close to your body.
- Move your feet when you change directions. Never twist your upper body while carrying a load.
Stay in good physical shape
As important as proper lifting techniques are, staying in good physical condition can also help minimize injuries. You can help reduce the likelihood of back injuries by:
- Maintaining good posture
- Exercising regularly
- Managing your weight
- Minimizing stress
If lifting is a regular part of your job, consider asking your health care provider to recommend stretching and conditioning exercises. Then encourage others to practice those exercises regularly.