Manual Material Handling

Manual material handling refers to any tasks involving lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling objects. Muscle overuse or overexertion injuries can occur when the task is performed without pre-conditioning the muscles and joints or when the demands exceed the body’s physical capabilities. Muscle overuse and overexertion injuries can range from swelling and soreness to torn muscle, tendons or ligaments.

Lifting/Lowering

Have you ever wondered what a safe weight to lift or carry is? Well, there isn’t a simple answer and there is no single, safe “limit”. The risk of injury from lifting (or lowering) depends on a number of factors that need to be considered including:

  • Size, shape and weight of the package
  • Male vs. Female population
  • Hand placement (i.e. how far away from your body are your hands?)
  • Position of the load (below knees, waist height, above shoulders)
  • Do you twist your body during the lift?
  • Shape and weight of the load
  • Number of lifts performed (frequency)

General Safe Lifting Technique

Using safe lifting techniques is important for reducing the risk of injury when lifting (or lowering) items. Remember, let your legs do the work, not your back. Also, be sure to avoid awkward postures such as reaching too far and twisting your back.

General lifting and lowering technique involves:

  • Sizing up the load
  • Standing close to load, with feet apart (shoulder width)
  • Squatting down – bend at hips and knees
  • Arching lower back inward and keep back straight
  • Keeping the load close to body
  • Turning your feet when changing direction
  • Placing load down - squat (bend at knees, keep lower back arched inward)
Lift / Lower Calculator

Lift/Lower Calculator

WorkSafe BC has an on-line software risk assessment tool that can be used to determine whether the risk of your lifting task is low, moderate or high. You will also learn what can be done to reduce the risk. This model is based on a modified NIOSH lifting equation.

Pushing/Pulling and Carrying

Using safe techniques is also important for reducing the risk of injury when pushing, pulling or carrying items. Remember, it’s generally easier, and safer, to push than to pull. Pushing uses your body weight to move the load and this position allows you to see where you’re headed. Also, avoid carrying heavy objects too far. Consider using a cart, dolly or other wheeled or mechanical device instead. The forces required, and the risk of injury, to push, pull or carry a load depends on a number of factors that need to be considered including:

  • Male vs. Female
  • Hand placement
  • Distance involved
  • Push Calculator

    Number of lifts performed
  • Floor surface
  • Size, shape and weight of the package
  • Condition of floor, wheels

Push/Pull Calculator

WorkSafe BC has an on-line software risk assessment tool that can be used to determine whether the risk of your task is low, moderate or high. You will also learn what can be done to reduce the risk. This model is based on the Liberty Mutual (Snook) tables.