Safe lifting tips

Lifting heavy objects

Think ahead

First thing’s first. Before you pick anything up think about the following.

  • How long you’re going to be holding the item – do you need to factor in a ‘rest’ to readjust your grip and take a break?
  • Where are you going to place the heavy object? Make sure you know where you’re going with it and clear the way of any obstacles before you lift it.
  • Can you use a trolley or other aid to help you? Or, if you can, ask someone else to help you.
  • Make sure you’re wearing clothes that you can move easily in and wear sensible footwear.
  • When you’re lifting or carrying anything heavy, don’t rush – move slowly and pay attention to what you are doing.
  • Can you really lift this up? Just because you can lift it doesn’t mean it’s safe to lift it. Don’t pick anything up that’s too difficult to easily manage.


Adopting a good posture before you lift anything up is important. This will prepare your body for the lift. Here’s how to make sure you’ve got good posture.

  • Stand straight with your chin tucked slightly in and your shoulders back and down.
  • Relax your knees and let your spine curve naturally.
  • Your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles should all be in one line.
  • Stand with your feet apart and one of them forward slightly so you can stay balanced.

Hold it close

When you’re picking something up draw your belly button gently in towards your spine. This engages your deep, supportive abdominal (tummy) muscles. It’s best to hold the object close to your body and hold the heaviest part of it to your body too.

Stay steady

Once you’ve lifted the object up, try to avoid leaning to the side or twisting your back. Keep your shoulders level and in line with your hips. Move your feet rather than your body. Face forward with your head up. Keep your movements smooth – any sudden twists or jerking movements can result in injury.

Adjust as you need

If you need to, put the object down and then repeat the steps again to pick it back up. If it’s too heavy, put it down and reassess whether it’s something you can safely lift.

Putting objects down safely

To put objects down safely, reverse the picking-up process. Keep the object close to your body, engage your tummy muscles and bend your knees. Again, try to avoid twisting and if possible, place the object on a surface at waist height, like a table.

Carrying or pulling a suitcase

Going on holiday often means a heavy suitcase. These tips should help you manage carrying your luggage in a safer way.

  • Invest in high-quality goods – your suitcase should be sturdy but not heavy or bulky. Test how heavy it is in the shop when it’s empty. Don’t buy one that’s already heavy when it’s empty.
  • If you can, get a suitcase that has wheels and an extendable handle so you can pull it rather than carry it.
  • When you need to lift your suitcase, stand alongside of it. As with lifting anything, bend your knees and try not to bend too much at the waist. When you lift the suitcase draw your belly button in (to engage those core muscles) and use your leg muscles as you straighten up. Hold the suitcase close to your body.
  • Don’t rush – give yourself enough time when you’re getting to the airport or station.
  • Use the lift or escalator where possible, rather than carrying heavy luggage up and down stairs. If you do need to do this keep the suitcase close to your body as you lift it. Don’t drag it up the stairs, lift it. And if you can, ask someone to help you.

Putting luggage in the overhead cabin

Getting your carry-on bag into the overhead cabins can be stressful as there’s limited room and everyone is trying to do the same thing at the same time!
The best way to get your luggage into the overhead compartment is to lift it up onto the top of your seat. Use both hands, one either side to lift the luggage up. It’s important here to engage your tummy muscles to avoid your lower back over-extending (arching) as you lift the object above your head. If you’ve got a carry-on suitcase, make sure the wheels go in first. Keep a hand on top of the luggage to stop it falling out and use the other to firmly push it back in to the shelf of the compartment.

Wearing a backpack

For a short break, a backpack is a good option for travelling. Get one with padded straps and make sure you wear it on both shoulders, not just one. Adjust the straps so that the weight is distributed evenly and feels comfortable.

Use the clips that go around your waist if you have these on your backpack, as they’ll give you extra support. It’s especially advisable to get a backpack with a waist strap if you’re carrying heavier loads or for long periods, like when you’re hiking and carrying water.

When packing, put your heavier items in the centre and at the bottom of the bag. But try not to load your bags with more than you need, take out anything heavy that you’re not using.

If you’ve got a shoulder bag – don’t carry it on the same shoulder for long amounts of time, keep switching.

Carrying the shopping

Unload your shopping in several trips rather than trying to carry all the bags into the house in one go. If you do have a heavy bag or box to lift, draw your belly button in towards your spine. Keep the item as close to your body as you can while you lift it.

If you’re carrying shopping bags, spread the weight out between two bags and carry one in each hand to distribute the weight evenly.

Planning your lifts can be helpful too, making sure you have a clear walkway from the car to the house for example.

Picking your child up

Before you pick your child up, prepare your body first and get into a good posture – bend your back, hips and knees forward slightly and engage your tummy muscles. Hold your child close to your body and use your leg strength to return to standing. Keep your upper body steady and try not to twist or bend while you’re holding them. It’s good advice to add some strengthening exercises into your fitness routine, which will make picking up your child a bit easier.

Car seats can be difficult as putting your child in and out of them involves twisting. You can purchase car seats that swivel around to avoid this. As soon as your child is old enough, encourage them to do things independently, like getting in and out of the bath or car seat, or getting onto your lap, to avoid you lifting unnecessarily. They may need a little support at first and more time to allow for it taking a bit longer.

If your child needs carrying when walking, consider getting a carrier that goes on your back, or a soft sling, to avoid carrying your child on your shoulders or in your arms.

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