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The Art of Lifting

The Stagehand’s Axiom has a brilliant philosophy when it comes to lifting, and that is:

“Never lift what you can drag, never drag what you can roll, never roll what you can leave.”

People who hurt their backs often think the injury was a result of that one incident that caused immediate pain. But many back disorders often develop slowly over time as a result of repeated stress. Therefore it is imperative that good lifting practices be made part of the normal day to day procedures.

Before lifting the proposed object, ask these questions:

  • Does the item need to be lifted manually? Is there another alternative? Can a dolly or forklift do just as well?
  • Is the item safe to move? Do special gloves or procedures need to be used?
  • How heavy is the item? Check the item before you plan to lift it. Push the object lightly with your hands or feet to see how easily it moves. This give gives you an idea of how heavy it is. (If you suspect that you will have to strain to carry the load, you’re probably right, and it’s too heavy.)
  • If the item is a package, has it been packed correctly? Is the weight balanced? Are there loose pieces inside that may break or be damaged during the move? If the box tips can the loose items inside create an¬†accident?
  • Is the item easy to grip? Can handles be applied to help you lift the item safely?
  • Where is the item being moved from? Is it easy to access? If the item is in a confined space, it may need to be dragged into the open before lifting safely.
  • Where is the item being moved to?
  • What route is intended? Is there a better one? Will the item fit through hallways, doorways and lift doors? Avoid walking on slippery, uneven surfaces while carrying something.
  • Is the route clear?
  • Do you need to stretch your legs and warm-up before you lift?

Once you’ve determined the most efficient plan for moving the item, follow these guidelines:

  • Wear shoes with non-slip soles and low heels.
  • Wear clothing that allows movement for bending, but is fitted so that there is no chance of tripping over it, or having parts of the material snagged on furniture.
  • Clear a space around the item.
  • Clear the route you’ll take.
  • Check that no one is in the way.
  • Stand close to the item, facing it.
  • Spread feet apart about shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat to lift and lower. Bend your knees. Do not bend at the waist.
  • Keep back straight and chin down. Use you abdominal muscles to help keep your back straight.
  • Your back doesn’t need to be perpendicular to the floor, as this can cause strain on the neck – allow the hips to hinge forward to a comfortable position as well as the knees.
  • Ensure a tight grip below the item’s centre of gravity.
  • Keep the item as close to the body as possible – never reach for the item.
  • Bow back in and rise up with the head first.
  • Lift with your legs and your arms – not your back.
  • Keep movements smooth and slow – never jerky or fast.
  • Carry items in both hands rather than one hand off to the side. This will decrease stress to the spine.¬†
  • Do not twist. If you must turn, point toes in the direction you are headed and turn your entire body in that direction. Turn with your feet, not your body.
  • Try to carry the load in the space between your shoulder and your waist. This puts less strain on your back muscles.
  • Make sure you can see where you are walking. Never walk with items stacked so high that vision is obstructed.
  • Put the weight down by keeping back straight, feet apart, bending at the knees.

Other Considerations:

  • Pace yourself. Take many small breaks between lifts if you are lifting a number of things.
  • Don’t overdo it. Never lift something that is too heavy for you.
  • Don’t rely on a back belt for protection you. It hasn’t been proven that back belts can protect one from back injury.
  • Take two or three trips rather than trying to take one overloaded trip.
  • If you are lifting with other people ensure that you communicate before and during the lifting process
  • When storing a heavy item, it’s better to store it at waist height rather than on the ground. This will avoid unnecessary bending when storing, or when needing to move the item again.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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