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Ohio State University Extension


Preventing Lifting Injuries

Small Farm and Gardening Safety and Health Series
Agriculture and Natural Resources
S. Dee Jepsen, Associate Professor and State Safety Leader, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Jeffery Suchy, Graduate Student and Lecturer, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Lifting, pulling, or pushing heavy objects can cause serious injuries, most often to the back. Due to the nature of their work, farmers and gardeners often rely on strenuous manual labor to complete daily tasks. Learning how to lift, pull or push a heavy object is very important to prevent injuries and reduce costly down time.

Material Handling: Think Before Lifting

• Arrange packaging, processing, delivery and material handling systems so that heavy loads are lifted and carried near the waist, between knee-and-shoulder height.
• When possible, set heavy objects on pallets, benches or other supports near waist height, not on the ground. It is nearly impossible to achieve a good back position when lifting heavy objects from the ground.
• Plan ahead to avoid slip or trip hazards, and to determine the destination of the load.
• Test the load to be sure it can be safely carried.
• Know the limits. If the load is too heavy, awkward or bulky to carry alone, get help.
• Use machinery or equipment, such as a pushcart, hand truck, wheelbarrow, dolly or front-end loader.

Improper Lifting
(Back Bent)
Proper Lifting
(Back Straight)

Serious back injuries occur most commonly when these improper lifting techniques are used:
• Bending from the waist to pick up objects.
• Lifting boxes above the chest.
• Twisting the body to carry or lift a heavy box or object.

Guidelines for Safe Lifting

Get a good grip. Grasp the load firmly. Use gloves if they allow for a better grip.
Get a good footing. Center your body weight to provide a powerful line of thrust and good balance.
Use a proper lifting position. Lift with your knees and legs, not with your back.
Keep it close. Grasp the load firmly and lift it toward your belt buckle. Hold the load close to your body to avoid putting pressure on your back.
Lift smoothly. Raise, carry and lower the load smoothly. Never try to pick up or lower a load too fast.
Avoid twisting. If turning is required while lifting or carrying a load, move your feet to turn your body instead of twisting at the waist.
Push. Push rather than pull the load. Pulling a load strains your back.


• Simple Solutio​ns: Ergonomics for Farm Workers. Ed. Sharon Baron, Cheryl F. Estill, Andrea Steege, Nina Lalich. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, February, 2015.

Reviewer: Kent McGuire, CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Originally posted Nov 12, 2015.