Safe Lifting

Improper manual lifting and moving of material and equipment account for a large number of industrial accidents. Therefore, it is important that procedures be established and followed by all those involved in this activity.


Although there are no legal maximum weight limits for individuals, the Department of Labor recommends a 50-pound limit for repetitious lifting of compact objects. The National Institute for Occupational, Safety, and Health (NIOSH) recommends a 40- pound limit with a two-hour per day time limit.
Even under ideal circumstances, the vast majority of workers should not be expected to lift more than 50 pounds.

Safe Practices

  • Inspect the load to be lifted for sharp edges, slivers, and wet or greasy spots.
  • Wear gloves when lifting to protect your hands from cuts and improve your grip.
  • Inspect the route over which the load is to be carried. Ensure the route is clear and free of obstructions and tripping hazards.
  • Size up the load and make a prelininary "heft" to be sure the load is easily within your lifting capacity. If it is not, get help.
  • Lift the load as close to the torso as possible. Ideally, the load should pass between the knees during lifting.


The Ideal Lift

The ideal lift is the traditional method for safely lifting many kinds of objects. The load is held close to the body to prevent harmful strain on the back. The ideal lift can be used for loads that can be "hugged" and is performed as follows:
  1. Make sure of good footing and set your feet about 10-15 inches apart. It may help to set one foot forward of the other.
  2. Assume a knee-bend or squatting position, keeping your back straight. Get a firm grip and lift the object by straightening your knees, not your back.
  3. Carry the load close to your body (not on extended arms). To turn or change your position, shift your feet -- don't twist your back.
  4. Use the reverse of the above procedure to set the object down.


Industrial Hygiene can provide instruction to workers who will be doing a lot of lifting.

Additional Information

Additional information on safe lifting can be found in ESHD 5008, Section 9, Chapter 4.