Manual Lifting & Material Handling


Manual Material Handling means a task that requires a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain a load using your body:

  • Repetitive or sustained force like pushing a wheel barrow
  • High or sudden force like lifting equip up into the back of a tool trailer
  • Repetitive movement like loading materials into the back of a truck
  • Sustained, awkward posture like working in a manhole or from a ladder
  • Exposure to vibration like using an air tool or jumping jack.
  • Lifting or hauling something heavy over 40 lbs. like solid blocks or large and light but awkward like a barricade sign


Manual material handling can lead to injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spine. These injuries include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Back injuries
  • Lower back pain
  • Joint and bone injuries or degeneration
  • Soft-tissue injuries to the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs
  • Abdominal hernias
  • Chronic muscle pain

Collectively, these conditions are known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). If you feel pain, stop and tell your supervisor.


A key to safely managing manual handling is to ensure, where possible, you handle items between shoulder and knee height. This is referred to as the Best Working Zone (BWZ), and together with ensuring that the item is close to the body, it is the optimum position when lifting and carrying.

  • Get a “Buddy” to help when an item is too heavy or large for one person to move. Limit lifting to 40 lbs.
  • Be conscience of your body position, safest to keep your feet square beneath your shoulders.
  • Always look to use equipment like loaders, hand carts, and forklifts to move materials in order to “save your back”.
  • Bend your knees, lift with a straight back, keep the load close to you chest, and do not twist when moving tools and materials. Shift position at your feet not your waist. Don’t bend over at the waist to pick up a work piece or material.
  • Plan your work so repetitive lifting of the same or similar objects can be avoided whenever possible.
  • Take an extra minute and get a cart, dolly or wheel barrow to make the work easier. “Work Smarter not Harder”

Plan ahead to use equipment or ask a Buddy to help move heavy and awkward objects.

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