Back Safety for Healthcare Workers

Whether you’re moving a patient, lifting a box of supplies, or pushing a cart or wheelchair, your back is always working. Use the tips below to help you reduce your risk of back injury.

Reaching

Reaching for records, files, or supplies, especially in high places, can strain your back:

  • Reach only as high as your shoulders.

  • Move as close to the object as possible.

  • Use a stool or stepladder if you need to get closer to the load.

  • Test the weight of the load by pushing up on a corner before lifting. If it’s too heavy, get help.

Bending and lifting

Man lifting box safely.
Bend at your knees and hips when bending down.

When you’re bending down to reach or lift, move your whole body to protect your back:

  • Bend your knees and hips, not your back. Don't bend or lift if you are off balance or if your back is twisted.

  • Kneel down on 1 knee, if necessary.

  • Get as close to the object as you can so you won’t have to reach with your arms.

  • Keep the load close to your body. “Hug” it unless there is a chance it may contain sharps.

  • Tighten your stomach muscles to support your back when you lift.

  • Lift with your legs, not your back.

  • Maintain a wide base of support. Keep feet shoulder-width apart, or one foot slightly in front of the other.

Pushing and pulling

Pulling larger objects can be as hard on your back as lifting. Whenever possible, push instead:

  • Push with both arms, keeping your elbows bent.

  • Stay close to the load, without leaning forward.

  • Tighten your stomach muscles as you push.

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.