Proper Techniques: Lifting, Pushing & Pulling

September 01, 2020

About 1/3 of workplace injuries cause harm to the shoulder or back which is mostly related to lifting heavy items.  One of the best ways to protect yourself from bodily harm when lifting, pushing or pulling is to use proper equipment, technique or ask for help.  Take the time to examine the object and know your personal limits. Always ask for help if the object exceeds your limit.  It has been shown that items over about 50 pounds are too heavy to be lifted alone.

Use Proper Lifting Techniques

  • Avoid lifting heavy items above chest height.
  • Use the “big toe” test to test the weight of the object.  If you can push the item with your toe, it is safe to move it alone.  If not, ask for help.
  • When lifting alone:
  • When picking up a heavy item from the ground, stand close to the load with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down, bending at your knees, keeping your back as straight as possible.
  • Make sure you have a firm grasp on the object before lifting. Use handles, if available.
  • When team lifting:
  • If you are lifting with a partner, coordinate lifting time.
  • Once the object is lifted off of the ground, carry it as close to your body as possible to prevent the object from losing its center of gravity and falling to the ground.

Solutions for Pulling

  • Keep your feet hip-width apart. 
  • When bending forward to pull, drop your hips and bend your knees. Concentrate on keeping your core muscles tight to decrease pressure on your back.
  • Always face the object you are pulling. Take small, backward steps once you start to move.

Push Before Pulling

  • When able, it is safer to push rather than pull.
  • Keep your back straight and bend your knees.
  • Do not twist at your hips to push but rather keep your core tight.  Use your legs and body weight to move the object.
  • Face the load squarely rather than at the top or bottom of the object.

Workers must be trained and educated on how to properly lift, push or pull objects to avoid injury.  

Injuries related to pushing and pulling activities include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Neck and back pain
  • Injuries to shoulders, hands and wrists

To keep workers safe and happy, proper pushing and pulling techniques are a must in the workplace. Whether the setting is manufacturing or agriculture, best practices need to be in place to provide workers the resources to remain safe and healthy in the workplace.

For more information please visit the Online Safety Library or contact one of our Loss Control consultants::

Jim Hallford:    (334) 300-6346 or

Scott Hunter: (256) 794-9591 or

Kyle Maske:     (334)-306-0611 or