Where possible use mechanical assistance for manual handling tasks, e.g. trolleys,hoists, hand trucks. This will reduce the stress on your body over time. If it is not possible or practicable to use mechanical aids, use the correct technique to help prevent injury.
Note. The ideal zone for lifting items is between shoulders and mid thigh. Apply principles of safe storage to reduce manual handling risks.
Safe lifting technique
Plan: Get help if you need it - is the load too heavy, large or awkward to lift alone? Can you divide the load into 2 smaller loads? Check the path is clear. Know where you will put the load down.
Position body: Feet close to object and shoulder width apart.
Semi squat: Bend at the hips and knees not at the back. You are aiming to maintain your spine's 3 natural curves when lifting. Get a good grip with palms, not just fingers. Pull the load close to your body.
Brace: Brace core muscles (see below) and bring head up into neutral so you are looking ahead.
Lift: Use a smooth action to straighten your legs; sudden weight shift and movement can cause injury. Keep the load close to your body. Always keep eyes and feet pointing in the same direction. Warning, do not twist.
Lower: Take as much care with lowering as with lifting. Take as much care with lowering as with lifting. Get as close as possible to where the load will be placed. Use the reverse of the above procedure - bend knees to lower the load and maintain spinal curves. Ensure the load is secure before you release your grip.
If you're lifting with another team member communication before and during the lift is essential. Sudden or unexpected movements can cause injury.
Pushing & pulling guidelines
- As a general guide, push where possible and pull an object where it is not possible to push.
- Don't bend over at your waist- keep your back straight.
- Keep elbows close to the body
- Keep feet and eyes pointing in the same direction
- Brace abdominals to protect lower back
- Keep palms facing upwards for pulling.
Activation of core postural muscles provides internal bracing for the back and helps reduce strain on the back and injury. Abdominal bracing is recommended when lifting, pushing or pulling and for any tasks that require the application of force. Muscle groups to activate are the pelvic floor muscle group and deep lower abdominals. This is done by drawing up pelvic floor muscles and drawing your navel back towards your spine (effectively narrowing the waist) while maintaining normal breathing.
Safe working loads
It is not possible to define a 'safe working load' for a person. The risk of injury when handling a load relates not only to the weight of the load but also the:
- location of the load
- characteristics of the item
- frequency and duration of manual handling tasks and
- cumulative tissue load over a working shift.
- there is greater body strain when moving an item from a high shelf compared to an item of the same weight from a shelf at waist height
- objects that are an awkward size and hard to grip will require more muscle force to hold
- a heavy load may be safe to move between a shelf and a trolley but it may be less safe if the same load has to be carried over a distance where the body is exerting continued force, and muscles liable to fatigue.
Note. It is necessary for each person engaged in manual handling to judge or assess their lifting capacity.
Suggested guidelines for load capacity
Following are broad guidelines for load weights.
- Standing - do not attempt to move, lift, lower or carry loads that are more than 1/3 of your body weight. Limit loads to 16 to 25kg.
Note. For loads over 16 kg a team lift or mechanical device is recommended.
- Sitting - loads above 4.5kg should not be handled.
Warning: lifting above shoulder height should be avoided to avoid back and shoulder injury. Store item at lower heights or use steps rather than lift above shoulder height.