Back to Basics: What Your Team Needs to Know About Lifting At Work

In a work environment, there’s pressure to get the job done quickly, and sometimes proper lifting techniques can become an afterthought. Unfortunately, when safe lifting at work isn’t a priority for employees, it only takes one mistake to lead to an injury — one that could last for years.

Lifting accidents at work are avoidable when your team members understand their limits and always use proper technique. Here’s what you need to know:

Knowing Your Limitations

Nobody knows your body better than you. The same goes for every employee at your business, and no team member should be expected to over exert themselves on the job.

Some employees may have existing injuries or medical conditions that limit their ability to lift effectively. Managers should be aware of these limitations and encourage a culture of open communication with their team members.

For employees without any health related lifting setbacks, precautions are still important. Encourage the proper use of lifting assistance equipment where applicable such as:

In cases where lifting equipment isn’t available or useful for hoisting a certain item, it may be beneficial to get multiple team members lifting together. There is never any shame in asking for a hand with something, and it’s often the right decision at work.


Lifting heavy items can take a toll on many parts of the body, but the back is especially vulnerable to injury. Back safety in the workplace starts with proper lifting technique. The correct approach to lifting is something every employee should know by heart, so it becomes second nature when it’s time to elevate an object.

These are the steps for safe lifting at work:

1. Keep Your Muscles Loose

Lifting in confined spaces such as closets is a recipe for back spasms. When the body doesn’t move around between lifts, and instead remains stiff for an extended period of time, it can cause low-level tissue damage. Employees should always make sure there is enough room to move their bodies a little bit between hoists.

2. Squat Down

One of the most common lifting mistakes is bending over to pick up an object rather than squatting. Proper form makes a big difference when it comes to back safety, and squatting ensures that heavy objects will not strain your back.

3. Grab Hold of the Object

If working gloves are necessary to get a good grip, team members should never hesitate to ask for them. Pick up the object from its bottom if possible, and ensure the grip is secure. The hold should feel relatively natural. If things already feel awkward, it’s time to reevaluate the lifting strategy.

4. Lift With Your Legs

Many people forget this simple advice and instead put pressure on their backs. As an employee squats down to begin their lift, the back should remain straight and their legs should be bent. Doing the opposite (legs straight and back bent) strains the back, since all of the weight is distributed to the upper body.

5. Complete One Smooth Lifting Motion

While lifting an object, do not twist or turn in any way. The body should remain aligned throughout the entire lift. The process of lifting should happen in a single, smooth motion — without sudden stops, starts or jerking movements.

The load should remain close to the body to keep the distribution of weight on the legs. If an object feels too heavy immediately, carefully place it back on the ground. Excessive force is never worth the risk of injury.

Get Proper Training Resources

While the advice above is a good primer for proper lifting at work, it takes thorough training to instill a culture of safety on the job. View our back injury and lifting safety videos to find resources that will help your team develop safer workplace habits.

If you are looking for assistance to prepare for OSHA inspections, check out our Blueprints for Safety program to change behaviors at work and keep your team members safe.