How good lifting technique can prevent injuries and claims

A manual worker with back pain, sat down holding his back.

As a trades professional it is likely that you will lift heavy and/or awkward objects throughout your working day.

Injuries can cause pain and stress, and can stop you or your staff from working. Which can seriously impact on your business’s finances, especially if you’re not covered with occupational personal accident insurance.

As with most potential hazards and accidents, prevention is better than cure. In the case of lifting safely, it can be as easy as getting into the habit of adopting a good lifting technique.

As an employer, it is important to protect your workers and in many ways that begins with education. Explaining to your workers how to safely lift awkward or heavy objects can go a long way to preventing injuries and potentially employers’ liability claims and personal accident claims.

Concise guide to safely lifting heavy loads

In this concise guide, we look at how to safely handle and lift heavy loads, using both hands in front of your body, and without twisting. The principles of which can be adapted to suit most manual lifting tasks.

1. Think before you lift and clear the immediate area

It is important to assess the lift and the immediate surrounding area first.

  • Are there any obstructions that you need to move?
  • Can you lift the item on your own or is it too heavy, or an awkward shape, and requires another pair of hand to help?
  • Will you need to move the item to a completely new area? If so, is the pathway clear?

 An illustration of a man thinking before he lifts a box to ensure that he does it safely.


2. Adopt a stable position

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), your feet should be apart with one foot in front of the other. Do not wear clothing that is too tight as it might restrict your movement.

An illustration of feet in a stable position, ready to lift a box.

3. Ensure you have a good hold

Wherever possible, hold the load close to your body as it can be more stable than simply gripping the object tightly.

An illustration of a man holding a box with a good hold.

4. Lift with your legs

Back injuries are common, especially in manual job roles, but they can be prevented with good lifting technique. Squat with a slight bend in your back, hips and knees and grip the load you need to lift, then raise yourself – keeping your back straight - through your legs. Be careful not to deep squat if you have issues with your knees.

 An illustration of how to safely lift a box - squating and lifting with the legs.

Bending over from your waist to lift a load, even if it is a relatively light object, can put unnecessary strain on your back and cause long-term injury.

An illustration showing how to safely lift an object.

5. Avoid twisting or leaning

Wherever possible, try not to twist ort lean whilst carrying a load. Twisting or leaning can cause long-term injuries such as strains. Instead, try to keep your shoulders level and turn your whole body with your feet.

An illustration demonstrating how to safely lift an object.

6. Hold your head up high

Stay looking ahead once you have lifted the load. Avoiding looking down can help to prevent strain on your back and neck.

An illustration demonstrating how to safely lift an object - holding your head up high.

Key points to remember for lifting safely

  • Injury prevention and safety is the best way to approach any lifting task.
  • It is important to remember not to try and lift loads that are clearly beyond you.
  • Also, try not to jerk or snatch at the load, as this can make it more difficult to control the load and can cause an injury.
  • If you need to take a rest, then put the load down on a table (if possible) so it is easier to lift again. Trying to lift from one position to another in one go can cause a strain injury.

How can employers ensure staff are covered against accidents and injuries?

Injury prevention should be taken seriously by your organisation, especially for those workers in roles where manual handling is common. This can be achieved by clear and consistent messages and training.

The two key business insurance policies that protect your business and your employees from injury are employers’ liability cover and occupational personal accident cover.

Employers’ liability insurance

If you employ staff, you’re responsible for their welfare whilst they are in your employ. What isn’t always clear to is that you can also be responsible for the welfare of your previous employees, an example could someone falls ill because of work they did for you, and they make a claim as a result, even though they have long-since moved on.

Employers’ liability insurance is one of only two UK insurances that is mandatory by law. If you employ staff, you must carry an EL policy with a minimum of £5 million of cover, as per the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. The policy will cover the cost of defending or settling a claim from an employee who has suffered injury or disease because of the work they have done for you. Cover can include medical costs, legal costs, loss of income, and other related damages.

For every day that you do not carry EL insurance you can be fined up to £2,500. If you do not have a certificate of insurance that is accessible to view, or if you refuse to make your EL certificate available to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors when they ask for it, you can be fined up to £1,000.

Occupational personal accident insurance

If you were a self-employed business owner, how would you cope if an injury or illnesses prevented you from being able to work? The occupational personal accident policy provides financial help should you suffer from an injury or illness as a result of your work. It can also incorporate cover for business travel and holiday travel worldwide in any one year for you and your family.

You can find more useful articles for tradespeople in our Trades Hub.

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