Manual Lifting - Ergonomics

What is manual lifting?

Manual lifting (also known as heavy lifting) is a general term used to describe the lifting, transporting and releasing of items or materials with the human body. In many cases, heavy items or materials may not be accessible by material handling equipment such as forklifts, skid steers or other equipment. Therefore, we must know how to “manually” lift items and materials using the human body safely.

What hazards are associated with manual lifting?

Key factors in manual lifting injuries include the weight of objects, awkward postures, high frequency and long duration lifting, inadequate handholds, and environmental conditions. Here are a few examples of these factors:

1. Lifting objects over 50lbs or heavier than what your body is conditioned for
2. Bending while lifting which causes your back to also support the weight of your upper body, in addition to the weight of the object you are carrying which leads to back injuries
3. Extending arms too far out while handling an object which results in shoulder and arm injuries
4. Excessive twisting at the waste, knees or ankles which can permanently damage joints
5. Carrying objects on one side of the body which can put an uneven amount of weight on the spine
6. Storing objects in places which require awkward positioning to access them which can result in back injuries
7. Holding objects for extended amounts of time, which can lead to muscle fatigue and cause you to drop an object onto yourself or someone else
8. Repeatedly exerting muscles which can cause muscle fatigue and cause you to lose grip of an object
9. Inadequate or awkward handholds which can lead to unexpected decrease in load and injure the person carrying the load
10. Lifting inside low lit areas where slips, trips and falls are common
11. Excessively hot or cold temperatures which can cause fatigue and possible inability to lift, hold or set down objects safely

What controls may be used to protect yourself from manual lifting injuries?

1. Do not lift objects heavier than 50lbs by yourself
2. Use additional personnel to lift items heavier than 50lbs
3. Keep objects as close to your body as possible
4. Avoid bending at the waist while lifting objects whenever possible
5. Avoid excessive twisting and turning while lifting or transporting objects
6. Avoid overexertion by spacing out trips and avoiding awkward positions
7. Avoid lifting and transporting objects which have low visibility or slip, trip, fall hazards
8. Avoid lifting during times or in areas with excessive hot or cold temperatures whenever possible; or use personal protective equipment to decrease the risk of exposure

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