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How to Safely Lift and Carry

Most back injuries result from improper lifting. Protect your back by practicing proper lifting and carrying techniques.

Think about the load you plan to lift. Ask yourself:
  • Can I lift it alone?
  • Is it too awkward or heavy for 1 person to handle?
  • Do I need mechanical help such as a cart or dolly?
  • Should I ask a co-worker for help or split the load into several smaller ones?

Get help or split the load if it's too risky to lift the load.

If you decide you can manage the load by yourself, follow the steps below.

1. Hug the load.

Your back is not a crane. Bending at the waist and extending your torso out over a load to pick it up will strain your back.

Position yourself:

  • Bring the object you're lifting as close to your body as possible. Hug the load.
  • Make sure your feet, knees, and torso are pointed toward the load when you're ready to lift.
  • Keep your back upright as you prepare to lift.

2. Tuck your tailbone.

  • Tighten your stomach muscles and tuck your tailbone as you prepare to lift.

Tightening the stomach muscles automatically helps support the lower back.

3. Bend your knees.

  • Always bend your knees when lifting anything.

This helps maintain your center of balance and lets the strong muscles in your legs do the work of lifting while protecting your back.

4. Lift and carry the load.

Hug the load, keep your back upright, tighten your stomach muscles, tuck your tailbone ... ready?
  • Gradually straighten your legs to a standing position to lift the load.
  • Come to an upright position. Don't turn or twist while lifting!
    • Twisting and lifting at the same time can overload your spine and lead to serious injury.
  • Pivot using your feet after you've lifted the load if you need to turn.
  • As you carry the load, change direction with your feet, not by twisting your body.

5. Put the load down.

  • When you're ready to set the load down, have your feet pointed toward the load.
  • If possible, choose a place other than the floor to set down the load so it will be easier to pick up if it must be moved again.
  • Gradually bend your knees and keep your back straight as you set down the load.

Good work!

Learn more

Get training:

Campus Funded employees contact EH&S Ergo Team

For UCSD Health or Medical Center-Funded Employees, please visit UCSD Health Ergonomic Evaluation Request or contact if you have questions.

Notice: Ergonomics information, training, and services are intended exclusively for UC San Diego employees and affiliates.