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Safe Lifting: Use Your Brain, Not Your Back

By Kristen Hansen
Last updated: August 4, 2018
Key Takeaways

A safety moment on lifting technique.

"One day at the shop, I was called to help offload some glass. The delivery driver had a trainee with him this day. The usual driver and myself lifted the first piece of glass safely to the empty a-frame. My colleague then went to lift the piece of glass with the trainee driver. The units were quite heavy, but when you’ve carried glass daily for over two decades, you understand how to handle big units. We explained to the trainee that the units were heavy, and that if he didn’t think he could handle it that it was okay and either myself or the other driver would step in. It was probably pride that urged him to say yes, he had it. They started to lift the unit, but once it was fully off the truck, it was apparent that he did not, in fact, have it. The glass started to slip from his hands and nearly reached the ground before my hands got to it. I grabbed the unit from him and lifted it to the a-frame. But since I had to reach so low to save the glass, I strained my back in the process. In my hurry to save the glass, I lifted with my back – not my legs. This caused me severe pain for nearly two weeks. It could all have been avoided if the trainee would have admitted it was too heavy for him."


– Gary (age 55) Glazing Fabrication Manager

An astounding 80 – 85% of adults experience some form of lower back pain (LBP). A statistic like this is tough to ignore. Why do so many people suffer from LBP? LBP stems from a wide range of causes including everything from being overweight to chronic injury to improper lifting techniques. Injuries relating to heavy lifting are 100% preventable. Check out these quick tips for proper lifting at home and at work.


Quick Tips

  • Use proper form when lifting anything. Big or small, heavy or light, always practice proper lifting techniques so you are prepared when you are required to lift something on the heavier side. Follow these techniques:
    • Bend from the knees, not the hips. When you bend from the hips, all the force you require to stand back upright is going to stress your low back. Instead, bend the knees and hips and drive through your heels to lift, while using your glutes to extend your hips
    • Keep your elbows slightly bent. Don’t lock your elbows, as this will force you to pull using your back
    • Let the lift come from your legs, not your back or arms
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help. This doesn’t mean that you are weak, it means that you are strong minded and intelligent enough to recognize your physical limits
  • Many manufactures place stickers on their heavy items that warn that the object is a two-man or team lift. These stickers are in place for a reason. Heed their advice
  • No one around too help? See if you can use a strap or pulley system to help move the material. Suction cups are also useful on a variety of smooth surface material including glass, steel, and aluminum
  • Remember to never lift something you are uncomfortable lifting. Be safe, not injured

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