Ways to lift correctly and avoid straining your body

Lifting and bearing heavy loads are common work tasks at many workplaces. To avoid straining the body, one must have the right knowledge about lifting. A workplace that works toward promoting ergonomic work methods enhances the work environment and simultaneously invests in employees' health.
A man loads boxes onto a transport trolley

What happens if you lift incorrectly?

The most common mistake is that we lift with the back instead of with the legs. This can put a lot of strain on the disks in your back. Unfortunately, you don't always get any warning signs before problems in your back start to show. In addition, heavy lifting can affect the body long term by accelerating signs of aging such as joint wear and tear.

Anna Millbourn Olander, ergonomist and licensed physiotherapist, gives us tips on what to think about when lifting heavy things or if your work involves repeated lifting.

"The very best thing is if you can avoid lifting and instead push, pull or roll the load with the help of a transport trolley or some other aid. If you do not have the opportunity to do so, it is important to lift correctly, take breaks and vary the work tasks. I think you should learn a good lifting technique and always use it, regardless of whether you're picking up a pencil or lifting a large television."
I usually say that when you can't maintain a good lifting technique, then it's too heavy.

What counts as heavy lifting?

There is no telling how heavy you can lift without risk of injury. The distance from the body, how easy you can grasp the object, the surface you stand on and the height you lift from affect how large the load will be. Likewise, how often you lift.

What needs to be considered when lifting heavy objects?

"Think about how weightlifters do. They lift huge weights, but close, close to the body and with a straight back. It's the legs that have to work. It's also important to remember that it's not only heavy lifts that are harmful, smaller weights can also mean a big load if you lift often or too far from the body," says Anna Millbourn Olander.
A manual stacker in use in a workshop

Create the correct conditions for lifting

By thinking about ergonomics when designing the workplace, many injuries can be prevented. Anna Millbourn Olander emphasizes that it is not enough to have lifting aids such as a pallet lifter or a lifting table. Everyone must know how to use them, they must be easily accessible and there must be time to use them safely.

Make room for lifting
If it's not possible to avoid lifting, it's important that there is plenty of space so that you can lift correctly, without twisting your body, and that the surface is level. It's also a good idea to place heavy objects at an easily accessible height

Relieve your back with counter movements
If you have a job with a lot of lifting, counter movements are a good way to prevent injuries. These are relieving exercises, which help to keep the back healthy.

If you have tasks where you're constantly bending forward, make it a habit to put your hands behind your back and bend backwards at least once an hour. A tip that even those who sit leaning forward over a desk all day can benefit from.
A man moves boxes using a forklift
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Four simple tips for sustainable lifting

1. Push, pull or roll instead of carrying. A simple but very effective way to avoid wear and tear damage. Regardless of whether you are moving folders in the office or heavy equipment in industry, it is good to use a transport trolley. Even light lifting that is repeated often can affect the body negatively.

2. Keep the most important things close at hand. Avoid bending down or reaching for things unnecessarily. In the workshop, it is perfect to have tool boards above the workbench. In the office, it is good to store the things you use most on the desk or at working height in cupboards or shelves.

3. Do not place heavy objects high up or far down. Don't place heavy objects on the floor. The things that weigh the most or that you use most often should be stored at stomach height. Preferably store nothing below knee height or above shoulder height.

4. Lift heavy objects close to the body. Bend your knees and keep your back straight, this way the load is on the legs instead of the back.

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