Lifting and carrying – but the right way: this is how it works

How much lifting and carrying stresses your health, especially your musculoskeletal system, depends very much on the way you work. Body parts stressed by lifting and carrying can be relaxed and strengthened by balancing exercises. Read here the most important rules of conduct for activities that require lifting and carrying loads at work.

Lifting and carrying

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Keep back straight!

Keep your back as straight as possible when lifting loads. If you bend forward with your back rounded, i.e. playing crane, you are assuming the most unfavorable position imaginable. The load arm between the foot point and the center of gravity of the load is very long and, like a lever, exerts a very large force that must be held by the body. With a crane, this force is compensated for by counterweights and bracing with steel cables. On the body of the person lifting, muscles and ligaments must absorb this force. So you make lifting unnecessarily difficult for yourself.

A much more unpleasant effect of a hunched back: the discs between the vertebrae are deformed in a wedge shape and pushed backwards. In extreme cases, there is a risk of a slipped disc!

So keep your back straight when lifting. If possible, take the load between your feet and bend your knees. Then use the strength of your legs to lift the load until you reach an upright position. However, make sure that the angle at the knees is not less than 90°, i.e. not acute: When lifting, otherwise the knees are overloaded and you have cast out the devil with the Beelzebub.

Carry close to the body!

Carry loads as close to your body as possible, so that the lever arm remains short and you do not have to exert yourself unnecessarily. The back can thus remain optimally straight and the intervertebral discs are loaded evenly.

With heavy loads carried in front of the body, the body is easily tempted to compensate by bending backwards. The hollow back that would then form is dangerous: the spine is bent backwards and the intervertebral discs are crushed at the rear side.

Especially when running, there is a risk that the load may hit the thighs and cause injury. Here you are forced to compromise: Lean forward just enough to avoid bumping into things.

Anyone who has ever laid grass pavers knows this "lazy" compromise and knows that this way of working does no good. Sometimes there is no other way, but avoid such activities if possible.

Carry distributed left and right

It’s often more beneficial to carry loads sideways than in front of your stomach, especially if the load has handles or grips, like z.B. Suitcases or shopping bags. If the load is only on one side, one tends to lean to the other side for balance. Again, the spine is brought out of the straight position.
Therefore, distribute the load as evenly as possible on both sides. This keeps your spine as upright as possible.

Keep an overview

Carrying in front of the body can be especially dangerous if you stack too high: If the carried load pieces obscure your view, you move forward in "blind flight". You have to try to look right or left past the load and often don’t see where your feet are going either.

The accidents that occur in this way have already wasted much more working time than can ever be gained by the distances saved. So it is better to walk twice!

Carrying together

If bulky and heavy loads must be moved by hand, it is a good idea to accomplish the tasks together with others. So always consider whether it makes sense to carry a load in pairs or even with several people.

However, you should follow the same rules for posture as described above. However, you will often have to compromise here.

When carrying loads together, there is still a particular danger: uncoordinated action by individuals can easily lead to accidents. Imagine two workers carrying a heavy and long wooden beam. When they reach their destination, one of them simply drops the beam and jumps to the side. The other person can’t react fast enough, of course, but he can’t hold the beam alone either. The beam is thus torn from his hands, can hit his legs or knees, or fall on his feet.

Coordination is therefore required when carrying loads together. The people carrying the loads must coordinate and act together; one person may have to take over the command.

Turn, do not twist

Loads often have to be set down in a different direction than they are picked up, z.B., when you take boxes off a cart and put them on a shelf. What you should not do Twisting your upper body toward the cart, grabbing a package, and then swinging your upper body toward the shelf. In doing so, the spine twists by almost 180°! The intervertebral discs between the vertebrae are literally rolled through in the process.

Avoid such twisting of the upper body under load. Keep the body above the pelvis untwisted straight and move your feet in the appropriate direction.

The procedure as a whole: Lift load, stand up straight with feet turned toward the rack, place load on rack. In this way you avoid unnecessary strain due to twisting of the spine.

Putting correct lifting and carrying into practice

The described behaviors have proven themselves, but are not always optimal to implement in practice. Try however in the interest of your health to behave always as similarly as possible. It will help you to observe the following sequence:

  1. If possible, avoid lifting and carrying.
  2. Lift and carry loads together with others if possible.
  3. Keep your view clear.
  4. Keep your back straight.
  5. Distribute loads evenly on both sides of the body.
  6. Avoid twisting the spine.

Read the unabridged article with balancing exercises, further information on the possibilities of mechanization and on the risk assessment of lifting and carrying incl. the instructions. A ready-to-use template for instruction on lifting and carrying can be found in WEKA’s practical solution Arbeitsicherheit kompakt (compact work safety).

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