Make Safe Lifting a Workplace Priority


Lifting and carrying material is a common workplace task no matter which industry you are involved in. Improper lifting is dangerous to workers because it can cause strains, sprains, cuts, fractures, bruising and more.

Overexertion injuries – which most often occur when a load is being lifted or otherwise handled – account for 22 percent of nonfatal work injuries, according to 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

OSHA suggests these tips to help reduce the risk of injury from lifting heavy loads:

  • Try to maintain a neutral spine alignment. Typically, bending at the knees – not the waist – will help maintain proper spine alignment.
  • Keep loads close to the body. For large, bulky loads, it may be better to bend at the waist instead of the knees to keep the load closer to the body.
  • Do not reach to access a load.
  • Minimize bending by keeping the load between shoulder and thigh height when lifting.
  • Keep heavier loads off the floor.
  • Do not twist when lifting.
  • Lift heavier or bulky loads with a co-worker.

Lifting material on pallets can also be dangerous given that items on a pallet jack can weigh up to 100 pounds. Employees tend to bend their waist repeatedly and strain their back, shoulders, legs and more.

According to the National Safety Council chartbook, “Injury Facts,” In 2012, more than 68,000 cases involving days away from work occurred due to shoulder injuries.

To prevent some of the more common mistakes workers make in handling materials on pallets, OSHA offers the following advice:

  • Raise the height of the bottom level so workers can leave objects with minimal bending of the torso. This way, workers will be able to keep the load close to the body when lifting and carrying.
  • Provide height-adjustable picking equipment so loads can be maintained at a comfortable level.
  • Educate employees on the dangers of bending at the waist when lifting loads. Be sure all employees use proper lifting techniques.
  • Consider using a palletizer or stacking extra pallets on the jack to elevate the load.
  • When possible, using powered equipment is preferred to reduce ergonomic strain.

Proper lift training for employees is extremely important to implement. Practicing the correct techniques when lifting will help prevent workplace injury, but can take time. Training for safe lifting should not only occur once. This should be regularly practiced since it is likely employees can revert back to their previous, unsafe lifting habits.