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.

Using a stool and kneeling properly


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

  • Reach only as high as your shoulders.

  • 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

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


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.