11 Safe Lifting Tips For A Healthier Back At Work
Don't become another workplace statistic. Instead learn how to lift correctly and keep your back healthy and pain-free on site.
I cringe when I hear that question.
Hearing someone ask "Do you lift" reminds me of the douche you see at every gym in every town.
You know the one I'm talking about.
The dude that does all his actual training at home before going to the gym.
Just so he doesn't waste any vital gym posing time by actually having to working out.
I swear I've never seen some of these man mountains lift so much as a single dumbbell.
Instead our guy spends his afternoon strutting around the place in his skimpiest outfit.
Checking himself out in every available mirror.
Basking in the glow of the admiring and envious glances he imagines is coming his way.
And after a few hours in the gym his work is still not done.
As he then spends 20 minutes in front of the changing room mirror taking the perfect topless selfie.
Completely oblivious to everyone else in there.
However it's even worse if he does notice you.
Because before you know it you've been cornered as he waxes lyrical about his 'eat clean, train dirty' regime.
It's all gains, body fat percentages and how much he can deadlift.
And while eating 15 chicken breasts and as much broccoli as you can fit in your shopping basket every day is an impressive feat.
I don't want to hear about it.
So I apologise for asking you that question.
But in this context it's important.
Because if your job involves lifting then you need to make sure you are doing it properly.
As using poor lifting techniques is a major cause of back pain and injuries in the workplace.
11 Safe Lifting Tips To Keep Your Back Healthy
You may be wondering why the way you lift things is such a big deal.
I mean, is it really that important?
Well for those of us who have to lift regularly at work it definitely is.
For example manual handling has been reported to be the cause of over a third of all injuries in the workplace (1).
And a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 75% of back injuries at work happened during lifting tasks.
So you can see how vital it is to learn how to lift properly.
And by following these tips you can do just that.
1. Warm Up Before Lifting
How common is it for people to complain of pulling muscles while lifting?
That feeling of 'throwing your back out' as your body seizes up mid-lift.
And one of the main reason that this happens (alongside poor lifting technique) is when people try to lift heavy loads with cold muscles.
Seriously don't do it, you are just asking for trouble.
Because lifting doesn't just involve your large muscle groups.
It also works your smaller connecting muscles and tissues too.
And when you don't warm these up first you are at far greater risk of pulling or aggravating something.
So before you start work have a stretch and warm-up for a couple of minutes to get your muscles warm and ready for the task ahead.
This will loosen your body up and get your blood pumping.
And not only will you lower your risk of injury by doing this, you'll also perform better during the day too.
To find out more about which stretches you can do to warm up click here.
2. Plan The Lift Before You Lift
Planning before you lift and move a load is so important.
The last thing you want to happen is to run into problems and obstacles while you have a heavy load in your arms.
So before you attempt to lift anything, ask yourself the following questions:
- How heavy is the load and do I need help lifting it?
- Is the load too bulky to carry on my own?
- Where can I get the best grip?
- Where do I need to take it to?
- Is the pathway free from any obstacles?
- Is the floor free of any slippery surfaces or potholes?
- Do I have somewhere to put it down safely?
By getting these things clear in your mind before you lift anything you will greatly reduce the risk of any slips, falls or accidents.
3. Adopt A Stable Position In Preparation
Basically you want to do the opposite of everything the guy above is doing!
Getting yourself into a good, stable position before you lift will reduce any strain on your lower back.
Ultimately you want to keep your body as strong and balanced as possible when lifting.
So keep your feet about shoulder width apart and place one foot slightly in front of the other and beside the object for balance.
Also get as close to the object you are lifting as you can.
Now you are ready for the lift.
4. Use The Correct Lifting Technique
Once you are in the correct position it is all about your lifting technique.
Now there are a few things you need to keep in mind as you lift.
Firstly you want to make sure you always lift using your legs and not your back.
Also don't bend your back when lifting.
Keep looking forward instead of down.
And remember to keep breathing!
This is a crucial part to get right so use the following as a guide:
- Squat down next to the object to be lifted by bending at the hips and knees.
- Look forward and keep your back straight as you do this.
- Once there get a good grip onto the object.
- Keeping your back straight and looking forward, engage your core muscles and slowly lift the load by straightening your legs and hips.
- Exhale as you do this.
- Keep your elbows close into your body as you lift to reduce any strain.
- Also keep the load close to your waist as this will reduce the amount of pressure on your back. The heaviest part of the load should be closest to you.
- Keep your movements smooth as you lift, as jerky and rushed movements can lead to pulled muscles.
- Remember to keep breathing throughout each part of the lift.
- Once lifted keep the load close to the body in the area between your waist and solar plexus.
5. Don't Twist When Lifting
Twisting while lifting or carrying a heavy object is another big cause of back injuries.
You need to remain balanced at all times when lifting.
But when you twist while holding a heavy load you are losing that balance and putting your body under strain.
So make sure your shoulders are facing the same way as your hips at all times.
And if you need to turn while holding an object use your feet to do so not your waist.
But only do this once the load has been fully lifted.
Never twist or turn during the lift!
6. Don't Lift A Load That's Too Heavy
We may think of ourselves as strong men and become overconfident or tempted to show off amongst our workmates.
But don't let your ego get the better of you.
Because lifting something that is too heavy is going to put your back under serious pressure.
So if you have a heavy or awkward object to lift take the sensible option.
Either use a trolley to move it.
Or ask someone to give you a hand.
Just make sure when you are doing a two person lift that you work in sync by lifting at the same time and keeping the object at the same height.
It's all about good communication and teamwork.
Don't over exert yourself unnecessarily and your back will thank you for it.
7. Make Sure The Load Is Balanced
Any kind of imbalances in your body as you lift and carry loads is bad news.
Because these imbalances force parts of your body to overwork and compensate.
And this just puts you and your back under increased pressure.
Think about it.
I'm sure we've all experienced how carrying something heavy in one hand is more difficult than carrying something heavy in each hand at the same time.
So make sure that the weight of the load is evenly distributed on each side and you will keep your balance.
8. Don't Obscure Your View
Don't be tempted to load yourself up with objects to the point where you can't see over the top of the things you are carrying.
Even when the load is light this is still dangerous.
Because not only are these types of loads so awkward to hold they force you into a bad posture as you carry them.
You are also more at risk of dropping what you are carrying.
And there is a higher chance of tripping over and injuring yourself if you can't see where you're going.
So either use a trolley or break the load up into smaller objects instead.
9. Put The Load Down Properly
It's not just lifting and carrying things that leads to back pain.
How you put the load down is also vitally important to get right.
Because by throwing or dropping the load, or bending your back as you lower it down, you are putting your back under pressure.
So instead adopt the lifting technique I spoke about earlier but in reverse.
- Look at where you are going to place the object you are holding and plan out the best way to put it down.
- Hold the object close to your body with your elbows tight into your sides.
- Looking ahead and keeping your back straight, bend at the knees and hips and lower yourself down into a squat position.
- Place the object down carefully. Don't drop or throw it.
- Keep your back straight and eyes looking forward as you use your legs to lift you back into a standing position.
10. Strengthen Your Core Muscles
Your core muscles play a massive part in supporting your spine during everyday tasks.
And they are crucial to help protect, stabilise and support your back as you lift.
So to give yourself the best chance of remaining free from back pain during lifting you need to engage your core muscles as you lift.
And work to keep them strong.
Because the stronger your core muscles are, the more support your spine is going to get.
There are many ways you can do this.
You can also use specific core-strengthening exercises too (click here to find out more).
11. Wear The Right Clothing
Using the right lifting technique and keeping your body fit and strong are a great defence against back pain from lifting.
However you also need to make sure you are wearing the right PPE work gear.
Things like gloves, boots and a back support belt can make all the difference.
Let's start with grip.
This is crucial on both your hands and your feet.
Losing your grip while you are carrying a heavy load can cause you to instinctively try to catch it as it drops.
And it's really easy to pull a muscle from these sudden movements as your muscles are already tense.
So wear a good pair of gloves that will give you a good grip for the task at hand
Something like the Ironclad Heavy Utility Gloves.
They are made to withstand heavy duty work while also providing comfort and a strong grip at the same time.
You also need a pair of work boots with a good grip so that you avoid any slips and falls while carrying loads from A to B.
And as you'll be on your feet all day they need to be comfortable and supportive too.
A pair I like that tick both of these boxes are the Keen Utility Men's Pittsburgh Steel Toe Work Boot.
But whatever pair you go for remember to look for grip, comfort and support.
And finally you can give your core muscles a helping hand by wearing a back support belt.
These belts work alongside your core muscles to help support and stabilise your lower back as you lift.
They encourage you to keep a good posture which also reduces the strain on your back.
And while they won't make your back invincible, they are still a worthy investment in my eyes.
As they will help you to stay pain free while lifting (as long as you follow the right technique!).
And a good one for people that do heavy lifting on a regular basis is the Aidbrace Back Brace Support Belt.
Give one a go and see if it makes life any easier.
Having to lift things on a daily basis at work can be tough on your back.
And doing it incorrectly is a major cause of workplace injuries.
However by warming up beforehand.
Keeping your core muscles strong.
Wearing the right clothing.
And employing the safe lifting techniques outlined in this article.
You can make sure your back stays healthy and pain-free.
So don't be a douche and become another statistic.
Make sure you are lifting mindfully and correctly throughout the day instead.
Resources used researching this article: