• Marcus Payton


Updated: Apr 6

For many workers, especially those with desk jobs, lifting and carrying things are not part of the job description. Yet a majority of workers find themselves lifting, transporting or moving items and objects in relation with their work. Often, the lack of proper training and knowledge about this task can lead to injuries, accidents, permanent disability, and even death.

Experts estimate that incorrect manual handling is the culprit for about 33% of all accidents and illnesses in the workplace. Many employees and workers do not have the proper training in lifting and carrying heavy objects. And unfortunately, those who receive some form of training or briefing about the subject tend to brush it off as something unimportant.

So, whether lifting things is a regular fare on your daily responsibilities or something that just happens from time to time, read on because we share some important things you should remember. A simple back injury would not only take you away from your work but it can leave a lingering pain that stays for many weeks if not permanently.

The 4 P’s to consider in manual handling

The first is to check the condition of the Person who will do the task. Is he/she physically capable of doing it? Does he/she have past injuries that may become aggravated because of the task? Is he/she trained to perform the task? What about the age? Older people are more susceptible to musculoskeletal infirmities than people in their prime.

The second is to look at the condition of the Project or the task. How often should you do this in a day or in a week? How long would it take for you to complete the task? It could just be a small box but it could need about 10 minutes of carrying because you have to take the elevator – those sort of things. How far do you have to move it? And would it involve more lifting to bring it to its final place? For example, hoisting a small lightweight box to a high cabinet might also be a source of injury.

The third is to see the condition of the Package or object itself. Do you know its exact weight? How big is it? What about its shape and the material it is packed in? Does it have handholds or handles? I’ve heard of some workers who prefer to lift heavier crates than slightly lighter cardboard boxes because the crates are easier to hold.

The last thing to review is the Place. What is the condition of the space where you have to transport the package through? Would the flooring be stable enough and give you traction? Is the lighting adequate? Would it permit good visibility so that you can see clearly the path ahead of you? Would there be any inclines or step? In case you need to temporarily put down the package along the way, would it be easy and safe to do it?

Think S-A-F-E when lifting and moving things

As you prepare to lift and move objects, think of the word ‘SAFE’ to guide you.

Size It Up First. Is it light enough for you to lift and carry? A good rule of thumb to follow is to lift nothing that weighs more than 25% to 30% of your own body weight – unless you’re a powerlifter. Make sure that its shape and size will give you normal visibility and no part of the object will block your forward view. If it’s too heavy or will limit your visibility, you should get help or use a lifting/transporting tool.

Anchor Your Hands. You should be able to have a strong grasp or hold of the object – never (ever) loosely. You should also be able to hold it as close to your body as possible in a normal standing position. Never lift anything over your shoulder height or lower than your knees to avoid injuries. It should not force you to lift or carry it with your arms extended.

Ferry It Smoothly. You should move steadily, easily and smoothly. If you can’t, you might need to get help. Always move with care and on a stable footing. Avoid putting your body in an awkward position because it would increase the chance of an injury. This means that when you have to turn, your entire body should turn simultaneously. Move at your normal walking pace and avoid the temptation to walk faster or to run when you’re near your destination.

Ease It Down Carefully. Do not hurriedly drop or bring down the object. Slowly ease it to the floor or a resting stand. Be mindful of your hands and toes as you might lay the object on top of them. Remember to lift and lower with your legs and knees and never use your back muscles. Bend at the waist. Do not extend your arms when setting down heavy objects.

You can avoid injuries and accidents by following these simple rules. Remember, a back injury doesn’t always manifest itself immediately. You may hurt yourself at work and feel the pain when you get home. One thing is sure though, if you injure yourself while lifting or moving things, you will suffer for quite a time.

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