Safe Lifting 101: Material Handling Techniques

December 27, 2022
Material handing techniques

A common task in many industries, material handling is one of the leading causes of workplace injury. Overexertion caused by improper lifting or cumulative trauma due to repetitive body motions can result in damage to an individual’s back, shoulders, hips, and other parts of the body. In serious cases, the injury can be permanent.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stresses the importance of ergonomic training for employees and offers numerous material handling resources, such as: proper lifting techniques, avoiding awkward postures, the dangers of long-duration lifting, and more! We’ve provided some safe lifting tips here. We also encourage employers to visit for additional guidance.

What to Know


  • Before lifting, decide where you are going to place the object/load and how you will get it to that destination.
  • Check surroundings to ensure your path is flat, dry, and free of obstacles. Do any doors need to be opened beforehand?
  • Determine the approximate weight of the object. Is it safe to lift on your own or do you need help from another person?
  • Consider the use of an assisted lifting device (i.e., cart, hand truck, pallet jack, forklift, crane, etc.) or breaking the load into smaller segments for safer handling.


  • Stretch your back and legs to warm up your muscles. Lower back rotations and hamstring stretches are recommended.
  • Good blood flow is important when lifting, so try a few jumping jacks or run in place before beginning.

3 – LIFT

  • Get as close to the load as possible and try to keep your elbows and arms close to your body.
  • Keep your back straight during the lift by tightening your stomach muscles, bending at the knees, keeping the load close and centered in front of you, and looking up and ahead.
  • Get a good grip and do not twist or jerk while lifting.


  • Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps as you go.
  • As you change direction, lead with your hips and keep your shoulders in line with your hip movements.
  • Keep the load close to your body with your elbows by your sides.
  • If you feel fatigued, set the load down and rest for a few minutes.


  • Lower the load in the same way you picked it up, but in reverse order.
  • Bend at the knees, not the hips.
  • Keep your head up, stomach muscles tight, and do not twist the body.
  • Keep the load close to your body.


Back belts have become commonplace for employees with jobs that require frequent lifting. However, according to OSHA, there is no research to suggest that back belts prevent or decrease back injuries related to lifting. In some cases, back belts can actually be dangerous by creating a false sense of security that makes an individual more likely to attempt to lift a heavier load than they should handle.




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Disclaimer: The GUARD Wire is designed to provide general information about various topics of interest and should NOT replace the guidance, advice, or recommendations from licensed insurance or legal professionals, other industry experts, or state and federal authorities.