Ways to reduce the strain of manual lifting

The strain of manual lifting can be reduced by designing the workspace, work equipment and procedures correctly. The best-case scenario is to avoid manual lifting and carrying altogether, or to at least considerably reduce the need for manual handling. If manual handling cannot be avoided, lifting and moving equipment and assistive devices must be provided.

The lifting equipment and assistive devices must be designed for the work and the kinds of loads in question. The best tools are those that do not slow down or hinder employees’ work. If employees find the assistive devices difficult to use, they are likely to not use them. It is also important that the tools are easily accessible and that there is enough room to use them in the workplace.

Procedures should be planned so as to minimise the distances by which heavy loads need to be carried. Workstations need to be designed so as to eliminate the need for bending, reaching or twisting while lifting. Manoeuvres that require employees to lift heavy loads above shoulder height or pick them up off the floor should be avoided. Awkward lifting positions can be alleviated by means of adjustable workstations, lift tables or pallet stackers, for example. Sturdy and correctly positioned, shaped and sized handholds also make heavy loads easier to handle.

The risks involved in lifting work and individual employees’ suitability for the work should always be assessed taking into account the employee’s gender, age, muscle strength, reach, work experience and any previous issues with work-related strain.

Different lifting manoeuvres require different kinds of assistive devices. Employees need to be taught to choose the right assistive devices and how to use them. Knowing about the dangers of lifting work often helps employees to see the benefits of using assistive devices. If it is not possible to use assistive devices in all situations, employees need to be shown the correct and safest lifting techniques. If necessary, employees can be told to work in pairs.