Workplace Safety Guides

   Safely Lifting or Carrying Awkward Objects


Many times a box or carton may be awkward to handle because of its size or construction. Turn it on its side or end to pick it up. Or if possible, split the load into two smaller loads.

A sack or bag can be awkward to lift. First, bring it to your knee, then to your shoulder, and finally push up with your leg muscles. When carrying flat material like plywood or sheet metal, always wear gloves. Let the bottom edge rest on one hand and support the top edge with the other. Your vision may be blocked on one side, so be sure you know where you are going and what is on your blind side.

Don't pick up something that can be moved an easier way. Use a hand truck or roll barrels and drums. Keep your hands in a position where they won't be scraped or pinched.

When carrying long objects on your shoulder, keep the front end high to avoid running into people. Be aware of electric wires when carrying pipes. If it takes more than one person to carry a large object, it is better to have both people close to the same height, or have them position from the tallest to the shortest with the tallest in front. One person should be the director of the lift and carry.

Overreaching while on a ladder or stool may not only cause muscle problems even if no lifting is involved, but can cause a fall. Take time to position the ladder or stool to avoid overreaching.

Pulling an object can be dangerous if done improperly. Position yourself with one leg behind the other, feet apart, with your knees slightly bent. With your elbows bent and arms close to your sides, push back with your legs. This uses the body weight for leverage. Maintain those natural curves while doing this.

Whenever possible, push, don't pull. It is better for your body. In fact, you can push twice as much as you can pull. Push with your whole body, using your legs, and again maintaining those natural curves.

Objects to be moved come in many shapes and sizes. Know the proper lifting techniques. Use mechanical lifting devices whenever you can. And remember, common sense can avoid back injuries.

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