Trending Content

Take 5 for Safety: Preventing back injuries with proper lifting techniques

By Ashleigh Petersen

March 22, 2023

Proper lifting techniqueTake 5 for Safety is a monthly article designed to give equipment and event rental stores the information they need to conduct a five-minute safety meeting on a particular topic. Below are talking points for this month’s meeting. Click hereto download the Take 5 for Safety signup sheet. This can be used to take attendance during the meeting.  

Back injuries are a common problem in the workplace. Back pain can be caused by a number of reasons, including these from the Mayo Clinic: 

  • Force. Exerting too much force on your back — such as by lifting or moving heavy objects — can cause injury. 
  • Repetition. Repeating certain movements, especially those that involve twisting or rotating the spine, can cause an injury. 
  • Inactivity. An inactive job or a desk job can contribute to back pain, especially if a person has poor posture or sits all day in a chair with inadequate back support. 

Preventing back injuries 
There are several ways employees can help lower their risk of back injury.  

Paying attention to posture 
While standing, be sure your weight is dispersed evenly between your feet. Use a chair with lower back support. Adjust the chair height so your feet rest flat on the floor. Do not sit with a phone or wallet in your back pocket.  

Modify repetitive tasks 
Use lift devices such as dollies, pallet jacks or forklifts when available. Try to alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding ones. If you talk on the phone a lot during work, use a headset to prevent neck strain. Avoid unnecessary bending, reaching and twisting. 

Proper lifting 
The following proper lifting techniques are from RentalU — the American Rental Association’s (ARA) online learning platform. 

Before lifting an item/load: 

  • Test its weight (if unknown) by tipping one corner of the box. Make sure you can handle its entire weight before picking it up. 
  • Always ask for help or use lifting/moving equipment (carts, hand trucks, forklifts, etc.) if a load appears too heavy. 
  • Check the bottom of the box for dampness or torn strapping tape. If the box is wet or the tape is damaged, the bottom may give way.
  • Assess the route where you plan to take the item to ensure it is free of obstacles, spilled water/grease, wrinkled carpets/mats or other potential trip/fall hazards. 

When lifting a load: 

  • Position the object being lifted so it can be kept close to your body. Place objects to be lifted close enough to the edge of tables and shelves so you do not have to reach over an obstacle to pick something up or set it down. Be mindful of tripping hazards. 
  • Avoid heavy lifts from the floor or from shoulder height or above. Place heavy objects at knuckle height, about 30 in. 
  • When ready to lift, face the load.
  • Position your feet shoulder width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other. Your feet should be positioned comfortably close to the load. 
  • Bend your knees and squat while keeping your back straight. 
  • Get a firm handhold on the load. Use your hands and not just your fingertips. 
  • Lift smoothly and straight up primarily using your leg muscles. 
  • Keep the load close to your body and do not twist or turn.
  • When you need to switch direction, change the position of your feet as you walk (do not twist your body). 
  • Set the load down carefully and slowly using the same procedures in reverse. Do not let go of the load until it has been lowered completely. 

Additional training:
Additional lifting and moving training can be found by visiting This training includes: 

Lifting and moving video 
Search “Lifting and moving” for a short two-minute Prioritize Safety Series video which illustrates what to do and not to do when lifting and moving items.  

Back Injury Prevention course 
Search “Back Injury Prevention” for a 19-minute course available in both English and Spanish. Learners who complete this course will demonstrate knowledge of the major causes of workplace back injuries and how to prevent them. Employees will learn about hazards and the three major types of hazard controls. This course is intended for general industry employees who, during their regular work duties, are required to lift and carry materials.  

Preventing back injuries document 
Search “Preventing back injuries” for a three-page training document that includes 10 ways to prevent back injury and pain, real-life examples of back injuries and more.