How to Avoid Back Injuries in the Lab

When most of us think about lab safety, the first things that likely come to mind are the dangers of chemicals and other hazardous substances, but even something as innocent as lifting equipment or supplies can cause a serious injury if not done correctly.

According to Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital Microbiology Department, lifting is the number one cause of back injuries in the workplace. Following the department’s tips for proper lifting procedure, even with lighter objects, can help save the backs of you and your staff:

  • Size up or test the load to see if you can handle it
  • Avoid heavy loads — split larger loads into smaller ones, use mechanical aids or get additional help
  • Determine where you are lifting the object to and where you will place it
  • Make sure the route or path that you will take is clear
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles to help brace your back as you lift
  • Keep your back straight. Bend at your knees as far as you can and still be able to return to an upright position
  • Initiate the lift with your leg and buttock muscles
  • Keep the object close to your body
  • Keep your head higher than your shoulders
  • Grip with your whole hand — not just your fingers
  • Lift with controlled speed
  • Come to an upright position using your leg and buttock muscles
  • Never twist at the waist when lifting or carrying. Pivot using your feet
  • Do not overextend when reaching. Get a ladder or tool to handle high objects
  • Push instead of pull
  • Keep your back straight at all times
  • When pulling, avoid extending your arm behind your shoulder
  • Face the direction of travel when possible
  • Try to store objects between shoulder and knuckle height whenever possible
  • When lifting to shoulder height: Lift the object to your waist. Brace the object to allow you to bend your knees and place both hands under the item. Straighten your legs to raise the item and slide it onto the shelf
  • Place objects on shelves by extending your arms while keeping your back straight