How to Lift Heavy Objects Safely

By Michele M. Howard

Lifting and moving heavy objects without proper technique, assistance or safety precautions can lead to injury. If you lift with your back instead of your legs, you risk back muscle strains, pulls and even a ruptured disc, which may contribute to long-term pain and discomfort. To help prevent these injuries, learn the safe way to lift heavy objects, ask for help or use lifting aids.

Assess, Plan and Prepare

Think through and plan ahead for the lifting and moving process. Size up the object to determine if it's awkward, check for handles and inspect it for sharp edges that could cause an injury. If you don't know the weight, try to push it with your feet or hands to see if it moves easily -- a clue to the object's weight. Clear the area around the object to give yourself plenty of room to maneuver and be sure your moving path is clear. Loosen up your muscles with a short warm-up to prepare your body for the task and reduce your risk of muscle strains or pulls. Wear appropriate footwear and if you plan to use gloves, be sure they fit properly for a secure grip.

Safe Lifting Techniques

It's important to have a stable base, so stand close to the object with your feet spread about shoulder-width apart. Instead of bending only at your waist and reaching down to grasp the object, bend your hips and knees, stick your butt backward as if you're about to sit in a chair and squat. Without hunching your back, grasp the sides and bottom of the object with both hands and secure your grip. In one smooth motion, push through your legs to stand and lift the object. Kneel on one leg for an alternate technique. Slide the object toward you, put your knee against the bottom and lean it against your kneeling leg. Grasp the bottom with both hands and while keeping it close to your body, slowly move the object to the top of your other, bent leg. Keep a firm hold on the object and push through your legs to stand.

Assisted Lifting

If the object is too large or heavy for you to lift by yourself, ask a friend or co-worker to help -- team lifting divides the weight in half. This person should be similar in strength and stature to you to help keep the load balanced. Team lifting requires coordination and clear communication. If one person fails to communicate and lifts too soon, the load will shift and potentially cause an injury. Before lifting, discuss with your assistant the direction and path you plan to take to move the object. Each person should use proper lifting technique to avoid injury.

Lifting Aids

You can also employ different types of lifting equipment and devices. Dollies or hand trucks, for example, make lifting and moving heavy objects relatively easy. In a warehouse setting, workers use pallet jacks and forklift trucks to lift and move heavily loaded pallets. Lifting straps made of polypropylene webbing allow two people to lift and carry heavy furniture and appliances just a few inches off the ground without straining their backs. Some strap systems are designed to fit over your shoulders while others fit over your forearms.

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