Lifting: You Can Measure the Risk

If you have manual handling tasks at your place of work, don’t keep your workers safe by accident.  All manual handling tasks should be evaluated for risk of injury by considering the force of exertion, frequency, body mechanics, type of load and hand grip, as well as the duration that workers are lifting. 

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has devised a simple tool for making just that assessment.  By taking a few simple measurements of a lifting task, you can identify if the task is within recommended limits or not.


A lift analysis tool (in an Excel spreadsheet) can be downloaded from a website posted by Dr. Tom Bernard of the University of South Florida.  To use the tool, you follow these simple steps:

  • Identify the horizontal distance of an object from the body at the origin and destination of the lift (Distance of hands from the ankle bones)
  • Identify the distance of the hands from the floor at the origin and destination of the lift
  • Identify the weight of the object lifted
  • Identify the asymmetry of the torso (how much the shoulders are turned from the straight ahead position)
  • Identify how many times the object is lifted per minute
  • Identify how good the hand grip is
  • Identify how much time per day is occupied with this task

To complete your analysis, enter your assessment results into the spreadsheet.  The macros in the tool will identify the recommended weight limit (RWL) and lifting index (LI – how much the task is above or below the RWL).  “What if?” scenarios can be evaluated for possible modifications to the task, in order to identify the best method of keeping the task at the RWL.



Posted by Bill O’Connor