Are You Putting Your Body at Risk?

Lifting and moving heavy objects, working with tools, pushing, pulling, bending and reaching to get the job done can be tough on your body. You can reduce your risk of injury by practicing safe work techniques. Take a minute now to assess your knowledge and practices so that you can take steps to protect yourself.


  • Are you involved in a regular conditioning exercise program, such as walking, swimming or bicycling?
  • Do you stretch your muscles before work and/or perform back stretching/strengthening exercises?
  • Do you stretch your muscles during work?
  • Do you notify your supervisor if you have an injury or experience discomfort at work?
  • Do you wear hearing protection if working in an area with noise?

Lifting and Moving Objects

  • Do you ask for help when you need it?
  • Do you plan the steps in your head (the route you will take, how to position the object, a secure spot for placing the object) before the move?
  • Do you find a secure way to grip the object and hold it as close to your body as possible?
  • Do you keep your back straight and use your legs for the power of the lift?
  • Do you make sure your footwear is secure with non-skid soles?
  • Do you know where to find information (pamphlets or videos) on safe lifting?
  • Do you organize your work or task area to avoid reaching overhead?

Using Tools

  • Do you feel comfortable with the operation of a tool before using it?
  • Do you keep your wrists straight when using tools?
  • Do you use your whole hand to grip rather than pinch with your thumb and fingers?
  • Do you organize your work or task area to avoid reaching overhead?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, consider yourself a safe worker.

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, ask the U-M Occupational Health Services nurse or Les Misher, safety coordinator, at (734) 764-4427 for safety instructions.

Suggestions for Safe Work Techniques

  1. Staying conditioned by choosing aerobic (walking, cycling, swimming) and strength building (free weights or resistance machines) activities will help your body cope with demands of the job.
  2. Stretching your muscles before work will help you maintain the flexibility that you need for reaching and bending. Also, stretching will identify any areas that are unusually sore so that you can be careful not to overuse those muscles
  3. Stretching muscles at work is very important. After doing a strenuous task or if the task has forced you to remain in a cramped position, take a posture break. Stretch your muscles, especially in the direction opposite to your previous posture. For example, if you've had to bend for several minutes, take a break and stretch your spine backward.
  4. If you're exposed to loud noises, such as power tools or machinery, hearing protection, such as earplugs or muffs, is very important. Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Protect your hearing at home too, if you use power mowers or listen to loud music, for example. If you have concerns about noise at work, contact your supervisor or call the Industrial Hygienist at 764-4427.
  5. Make sure you know what personal protective equipment is available for hazardous jobs. Goggles, safety shoes and hard-hats are other equipment that should be worn when necessary.
  6. It's always smart to ask for help if an object looks too large or heavy to lift yourself. Use a dolly or platform lift, if available, to manage large loads.
  7. Proper lifting spares the back. Your back should be straight while lifting and the power should come from your hips and legs. Place your feet about shoulder width apart and bend the knees. Use the power in your legs to lift straighten up and lift the object. Hold the object as close to the body as possible to avoid extra strain on the back and arms.
  8. Never twist your back while lifting. Use your feet and legs to pivot and change direction. All your movements should be fluid and not jerky.
  9. Slips and falls are common in a busy environment but can be avoided. Always wear comfortable shoes with non-skid soles and watch in front of you for objects in your path or wet or slippery floors. If a floor looks damp, test it out before you walk.
  10. Before using a tool or machine, make sure you are familiar with safe operation. If a tool or machine does not appear to be in proper working order, ask someone to check it out. If it's in need of repair, make sure it is tagged and removed from the work area.
  11. Tool handles should be designed so that you can use them with your arms and hands in a comfortable position (wrists straight). For example, a pistol shaped handle will work well for tasks that are done in front of the body, and a straight handle is better for use on a ceiling or above the body.
  12. A power grip uses the whole hand to grasp something, like you might hold the handle of a suitcase. This grip is stronger and more comfortable than a pinch grip between thumb and fingers.
  13. When using a ladder, make sure it is in proper working order and on secure footing. To safely angle a straight ladder, place its base out at least one fourth of the height of the ladder.
  14. The shoulder's range of comfortable motion is with the arm at chest level or below. Try to organize your area or use a sturdy stool if you need to reach above that level. Always use two arms to lift something overhead, if possible.
  15. If you injure yourself on the job make sure to notify your supervisor and come to Occupational Health as soon as possible.
  16. Working safely means paying attention to your habits as well as your co-workers'. Safety is everyone's job.