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March 29, 2021

Proper lifting | Get back to basics

Shane Collins

How old were you when you learned how to lift properly? How did you learn? Did someone teach you, or did you watch a video? This article explains the five best strategies for lifting safely to protect your back. But you already know them. At a very young age lifting and carrying items comes naturally with no supervision, but as we age, we often learn how to lift incorrectly. 

Musculoskeletal injuries continue to be one of the leading cause of workplace injuries. According to Injury Factsoverexertion and bodily reaction are the number one leading cause of injuries involving t away from work. It's no surprise that the back is the most frequent body part injured. ErgoPlus defines musculoskeletal disorders as injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system including muscles, tendon, ligaments, and joints.

Children know how to lift one way – they bend their knees to pick something up. They don’t know that there is any other option, but as adults, we become complacent and lazy. We lock our knees, bend at the hips, and lift the load with our backs because it is easier. We take a shortcut. Shortcuts lead to injuries and there are no shortcuts in safety. The majority of the force being lifted is being felt directly in our lower back, specifically the lumbar region, when we lift while bending at the hips.

The back is made up of four main regions: the cervical region (neck), the thoracic region (upper back), the lumbar region (lower back), and the sacral region (bottom of the spine).  The lumbar region has a lot more mobility than any other region in the back which allows us to bend and twist and it also carries the weight of the torso, which according to spine health experts makes it more prone to injury.

Phot of child lifting a box.

If you asked a child to simply pick up a light box, he or she would do so without direction and you would notice that they perform the lift with perfect form. Here is how they do it:

1. They size up and line up square to the load, with legs about hip width apart. Instinctively it is easier to lift when you creating a strong, stable base.

2. Initiating the movement from the hips, they will bend at the knees and drop their bottom down toward the floor. 

3. Throughout this process the back is remaining straight and perfectly neutral with no bend or twist. Planting their heels to the floor helps maintain this posture. 

4. They get a strong firm grip on the box using their entire hand on both sides of the box to ensure it will not fall.

5. Pushing into the floor with their heels, lifting with the legs, and maintain a strong neutral back they lift up into a standing position.

Maintaining good form when performing a lift is critical to the safety of you and your team. Training your staff can help prevent back injuries. Reach out to your Marsh & McLennan Agency representative and learn how we can assist with your safety program.