Safe lifting techniques: Is there really a safe way to lift?

A lot of workplaces, from construction to retail to warehouses, involve heavy lifting as part of their day-to-day operations. Improper lifting technique can result in both short term injuries, such as sprains and bruises, as well as longer term musculoskeletal damage. Both of these outcomes have a negative impact on the workers’ quality of life, in addition to the potential negative impact on businesses, in the form of reduced productivity and increased medical costs.

What is a musculoskeletal injury?

The musculoskeletal system is made of up your bones and muscles, as well as connective tissues like tendons and cartilage. It supports the human body. Injuries to this system can include things like:

  • sprains and strains
  • back injuries including damage to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal discs, nerves, joints and bones
  • joint and bone injuries or degeneration
  • nerve injuries or compression, such as carpal tunnel syndrome,
  • and more1

Keeping a few things in mind will help both employers and employees reduce the risk of injury, keeping their workplace running smoothly and safely.

Identifying risk

The first step to avoiding risk is being able to spot it. Employees should be trained to identify situations where manual handling tasks may require a little extra thought. Such tasks could include:

  • lifting loads that may be too heavy for one person to do so safely
  • lifting or moving items that are in a high location or are otherwise difficult to reach
  • carrying heavy loads through environments with tripping or falling hazards, such as a recently mopped floor or cluttered shop aisle, and
  • a lack of supporting equipment, such as trolleys.

Mitigating risk

Once a risk has been identified, employees should take steps to reduce or eliminate it. In the case of lifting and moving large items, this can involve steps like:

  • getting a colleague to assist
  • sourcing appropriate equipment
  • clearing walkways and work areas, and
  • seeing whether the load can be broken up into smaller chunks.

In some cases, the task will simply be too risky to proceed with. If so, it should be avoided, and alternative options should be considered.

The Victorian government’s Better Health Channel has suggested a few additional measures2 that could help.

Workers Compensation Insurance

Workers Compensation Insurance can help protect businesses from the costs of claims related to workplace injuries.

GIO can offer Workers Compensation Insurance for businesses in WA, NT, ACT and TAS. Complimentary training courses are available for GIO customers to help businesses prevent workplace injuries and reduce associated claims costs. Customers also have access to a wide range of discounted training courses provided through our partnership with National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA). For more information on the training courses or if you have any risk management queries, please contact us.

Learn more about Workers Compensation Insurance

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Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. In NSW, GIO manages claims as agent for the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer ABN 83 564 379 108, also known as icare workers insurance. The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.

1Safe Work Australia: Manual handling

2Better Health Channel: Workplace safety – Manual handling injuries