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Lifting Weight At Work

How to safely lift weight to avoid injury

How to safely lift weight to avoid injury

When attempting to lift heavy weights it is of utmost importance to follow correct safety guidelines. Failing to do so can lead to risk of injury. In fact, injury from weightlifting is the second biggest cause of nonfatal injury at work, after slips and falls (according to HSE). 

Recent statistics from HSE show 17% of nonfatal injuries in the workplace were caused by lifting or carrying weights between 2022 and 2023. According to HSE, 561,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

In certain industries it may be a requirement to lift heavy weights as part of your job, you may also be seeking guidance for safe lifting practice for your own leisure or exercise activity. Take a look at our advice for safe weight lifting below.

Lifting weight in the workplace

If lifting heavy weight is part of your job description then adequate health and safety protocol should be followed,

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require you to assess the risks to the health and safety of your workers. Where this identifies hazardous manual handling of loads, you should also comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations.

For employers, these include:

  • Assessing the injury  risk of hazardous manual handling which can’t be avoided
  • Reduce this risk as much as is possible
  • Avoid hazardous material handling as much as is possible
  • Knowing and following the shared health and safety guidelines and protocol within your place of work
  • Ensuring employees know health and safety procedures
  • Provide the correct equipment and wearing the appropriate clothing provided for health and safety
  • Communicating and cooperating with your employees on health and safety matters

For employees, this advises:

  • Following the systems of work set out by their employer
  • Using the correct clothing and equipment
  • Inform you of any changes that may affect their abilities to perform work tasks
  • Take care to ensure they don’t put others at risk when undertaking risky actions

Weight limit guide

What is the safe lifting limit? According to the guidelines, the highest weight men should lift at work when carrying loads near the body and at about waist level is 25kg. This is reduced to 5kg for loads that are held far from the body and/or at or above shoulder level.

To put it simply, 25kg is roughly the same as the weight of three bowling balls. Most people would find 20-25kg to be heavy.

Machinery and equipment 

You should always assess the option of using machinery to lift heavy weight in the workplace, especially for certain objects.

Goods transportation aids, such as industrial trolleys, can make the difference between safe transportation of heavy goods versus risky actions that could cause injury to staff. Employers do need to make sure all employees have been properly trained before using any industrial equipment to reduce any further risk of improper use.

Lifting weight for exercise

The same safety principles apply when lifting weights for exercise. You should always warm-up before attempting any exercise regardless of weight and you should adapt your warm-up routine to suit what activity you are about to undertake.

For weightlifting it is important to practise your form and have this nailed down before lifting anything excessively heavy. The limits will depend on your experience, body capabilities and weight. Studies have shown men are more likely than women to sustain injury when exercising, men receive an average of 2.2 to 3.3 injuries for every 1,000 hours of lifting weights for exercise. Spine , shoulder and knee are the areas most affected by weightlifting injury.

Risks of lifting weight 

As mentioned, there is a risk to lifting heavy objects in work. Failing to do so safely could result in serious injury.

These are some of the biggest health risks for lifting weight beyond your capabilities or incorrectly:

Nerve damage: this can be caused by muscle strain or repetitive strain injury. Lifting weight too quickly or twisting can result in nerve damage, which could be extremely painful to endure and could lead to symptoms such as cramps or twitching.

Carpal tunnel syndrome: this can be caused by keeping your wrist in an extended position for too long or repeating repetitive motions again and again. Symptoms include weakness when gripping, tingling sensations in your hands, swelling or numbness, pain in your hands.

Hernias: these can occur when weightlifting is done incorrectly and are caused by muscle being injured when lifting weights. Rapid twists or turns when lifting poses a particular risk of developing hernias,so be sure to follow best practice when lifting. Symptoms include pain around the groin area, muscle tearing, dull or burning sensations.

Sprains and strains: caused by poor form or lifting too much, strains and sprains lead to symptoms such as bruising and pain in the affected area. You may also experience swelling around the area and struggle to put weight on it afterwards.

Tendinitis: this is when your tendons become inflamed, leading to pain around the joints. This condition is caused by repeated strain being put on tendons through lifting. Poor form and lack of warm-ups are a risk factor for Tendinitis. It mainly affects shoulders, knees, wrists and elbows.

Slipped discs: this condition is when a soft pad of tissue that lies between your spinal bones protrudes. It is caused by bending over to lift heavy objects, creating a force which ruptures the disc. Symptoms include neck pain, numbness, issues bending your back and muscle weakness. 

Spinal cord damage: lifting when twisting or bending in the wrong way can cause severe spinal cord damage which could be serious for your health. Lifting weight causes stress on your joints and soft tissue so proper preparation and execution is essential to avoid injuries like this.

Crush injury: dropping a heavy object the wrong way can lead to parts of your body being crushed and injured. This can be incredibly painful and dangerous. Crush injury is the trauma experienced by prolonged compression of limbs or body parts. Symptoms can include bleeding, bruising, pain, nerve injury, lacerations or fractures.

Osteoarthritis: this condition manifests as swelling, tenderness or pain in your joints as you age. Continuous lifting of heavy weights on a regular basis can lead to wear and tear of your body. Pushing through the pain over time and continuing to lift when your body is showing signs you should stop can lead to this condition. It is caused when the joint is overused and has no time to heal.

Musculoskeletal disorders: also known as MSD, this refers to injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. It includes some of the above-mentioned conditions alongside others. Signs of MSD include fatigue, aches, pain, weakness, stiffness, numbness.

Not only are these injuries potentially life-threatening in some cases, if not just threatening to health, but they can lead to long periods of sickness and leave for employees.

Do’s and don’ts

Some simple do’s and don'ts to follow for safe weight lifting include:

  • Do make sure to wear appropriate and sensible clothing
  • Don’t ignore your surroundings - be sure to assess your environment before starting
  • Do position your feet correctly
  • Don’t twist or turn your back whilst lifting
  • Do plan your lift in advance
  • Don’t look at the floor whilst lifting
  • Do appoint someone to watch you as you lift and support you if needed
  • Don’t lift anything that will obstruct your vision
  • Do keep the weight close to your body when first lifting
  • Don’t lift higher than your shoulders
  • Do find out the weight of the item you are attempting to lift in advance
  • Don’t hold your breath throughout lifting
  • Do practise your form and maintain this whilst lift
  • Don’t lift with your back bent over
  • Do stop as soon as you feel any pain or discomfort
  • Don’t rush your lift
  • Do warm-up before and cool down afterwards

It is recommended you consult doctors advice before undertaking consistent and regular lifting of heavy weight. 

When it comes to keeping the workplace safe, BlueTrolley is here to lend a helping hand. We provide high-quality, safe warehouse equipment of an impeccable standard, and can even create trolleys to suit your specific needs. Send us an email or give us call for more information, or feel free to browse our range of trolleys and other handling equipment.

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