Safety Blog Post


Manual Materials Handling

Take a look at this picture, and then think about what this man is doing wrong.

Could it be that he’s grabbing the box with just his palms? Or that he’s not grabbing it from the bottom?

Not necessarily. The real problem is the way he’s standing; he is putting a lot of unnecessary and risky strain on his back.

Lifting heavy objects from a bent over position can cause a handful of complications. This mistake places the weight of both the object and your upper body all on your spine. To get an idea of how much heavier that is, your upper half accounts for roughly 63.7% of your overall body weight. This means that even if the box in the picture is not that heavy, this gentleman is still putting a good amount of pressure on his spine. The man is also reaching for the box rather than using more of his body to pick it up. This adds to the pressure on the spine, and also places considerable strain on the shoulders.

Here is the proper technique for lifting heavy objects:

  • Wide base. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other.
  • Squat down. Bend at the hips and knees only.
  • Good Posture.Look straight ahead; keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back.
  • Slowly lift.Straighten your hips and knees without twisting.
  • Keep it close.Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.
  • Small steps.Use your feet to change direction while leading with your hips.
  • Set it down.Squat down again to set your load down while bending with the knees and hips only. 

Why is good back health important? In 2013, the Ministry of Labor Statistics reported that approximately 25% of all injuries or illnesses that required days away from work were due to back or shoulder injuries. On average, those employees with back injuries spent 8 days away from work, while those with shoulder injuries spent an extensive 26 days away from work.

For employers, an employee’s back injury can also be very costly. The average cost of worker’s compensation claim related to back injuries ranges from =N=500,000 to =N=1,500,000 per employee. This takes into account the number of days away from work, sick days used, and includes direct costs of medical bills, cost of turnover, and temporary help.

For work related Health, Safety and Environment Issues, please feel free to contact the HSE hot line on 08126158343 or Email:


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