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Lifting and carrying are commonplace activities both in the workplace and at home. Each year, lifting and/or carrying accidents result in a large number of personal injuries both on and off the job. In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics ((BLS) studies have shown that on the job, 1 out of 5 workers will suffer a lower back pain injury at some point in their life, and many will result in long-term problems. Proper conditioning, as well as planning and observing some basic safety rules can help to reduce the hazards involved with lifting and carrying.

Back injuries can occur more frequently if your lower back muscles are weak, and your back has to endure physically demanding activities at work or at home. Whenever possible, take a few minutes to strengthen, stretch and “warm-up” your back muscles before beginning such activities. A number of Health Plans and HMO’s offer their subscribers information on various back strengthening and stretching exercises, and your own Physician may be able to develop a specific plan of action and exercises for you to get your back in shape.


  • Whenever possible use mechanical devices, such as carts, or hand trucks, to lift and move heavy objects.
  • When manual lifting is necessary:
  • Check the load to be lifted to see if it has sharp edges, slivers or wet or greasy spots. If you must lift such loads, always wear gloves.
  • Take a preliminary feel of the load to make sure you can carry it by yourself. If not, get help.
  • If help is not available, try breaking the load down into smaller units.
  • If more than one person does the lifting/handling, one person should give the command to lift, etc., so that both lifters are in sync with each other.
  • Check the path through which you will carry the object. It should be easy to see and free of slippery spots or obstructions that could cause you to trip or slip.

Lifting & Carrying

  • Set your feet about 10 to 15 inches apart (about shoulder width) with one foot slightly in front of the other.
  • Bend your knees or assume a squatting position, keeping your back straight and upright. To maintain your balance keep your feet flat on the ground or floor.
  • Get a firm grip on the object and lift by straightening your knees, not your back.
  • Lift and carry the load close to your body and at waist level whenever possible to reduce strain.
  • If carrying a load some distance, don’t overestimate your ability to carry it the entire distance. Set the load down to take a rest if necessary.
  •  To turn or change direction, shift your feet, and do not twist your back.
  • When setting the load down, squat while keeping the spine straight and the load close to your body. Do not bend over from the waist and set the load down.
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