Ergonomics done right.®
October 26th, 2011

Material Handling Tips – Preparing for a Lift

There are lots of “lifting school” courses and free information available online that coach proper lifting techniques with the end goal of saving your back from injury while lifting. You’ll find tips like keeping the load as close to your body as possible, maintaining the natural curvature of your spine, and lifting with your legs rather than your back. Many of these tips have become common knowledge, but serve as handy reminders for employees who perform frequent material handling tasks.

However, preparing yourself and your workspace before you actually perform your lift is just as important. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing for a lift:

  • Plan your route. Clear any potential slip or trip hazards from the area. If you are going to be carrying the load through a doorway, prop the door open beforehand to avoid awkward postures when you reach that doorway with your load.
  • Get an idea of how heavy the load is before picking it up. If it’s a box, examine the contents. If it is sealed, nudge it with your foot or knee to get an idea of how heavy it is. This will allow you to properly brace yourself and avoid any additional surprise exertions on your joints. If you think the load is too heavy, ask for help.
  • Do not attempt to lift overloaded or damaged boxes. If you get the feeling that the box you are about to lift isn’t going to be sturdy enough, you are probably right. If the box breaks while you are lifting it, the result could be unexpected loads on your body, which may cause injury.
  • Use gravity to your advantage. Whenever possible, load from higher positions to lower positions. Minimize vertical travel distance by placing carts directly below shelving units and load boxes onto other boxes that are already on the cart

Planning your strategy before and during material handling will save you (and your back) from unplanned events that could potentially result in an injury. So be smart, don’t rush, and lift safely!