Manual Lifting

Follow these links
to related legislation

Highlighted words reveal
definitions and supplementary
information when selected

Lifting is a common task in every workplace, and there are hazards that must be assessed and controlled. The frequency or repetition of the activity, weight of the load, and body position are all elements to consider to prevent injuries such as low back pain, sprains, and strains. Both employers and workers have a responsibility to provide and use the appropriate equipment for the job. Employers must provide proper training and instruction to workers regarding safe lifting practices.

Before every lift or carry, workers should check to see if mechanical lifting aids are available for use where appropriate. If the load must be handled manually, check to make sure that the path is clear of debris that may be a hazard. Team lifts may also be required for heavy or awkward loads.

This topic focuses on manual lifting and material handling. It does not include information on rigging, hoisting, or the use of powered mobile equipment.

Employer duties

Employers must:

  • Take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of people at the workplace.
  • Provide mechanical aids for use to lighten and carry materials and loads, where practicable.
  • Instruct workers assigned to handle materials on how to lift and carry them, keeping in mind the physical characteristics and gender of each worker.
  • Make sure that when two or more people are involved with a heavy lift or carry that they understand the signals for raising and lowering the load.
  • Use ropes or other tackle in addition to chocks and wedges to control the motion of heavy objects such as loaded drums or tanks when they are on an incline in either direction. Prohibit workers from standing between skids on the downhill side of an incline.
  • Use bars or sledges when moving heavy objects instead of hands or feet to change the direction of the rollers while in motion.
  • Provide workers with suitable protective clothing and equipment when workers handle objects that may cause injury due to sharp or projecting material as well as hot, caustic, or corrosive material.
  • When handling storage batteries or electrolyte, provide and instruct workers to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., acid resistant gloves, aprons, and goggles or face shields), and to use straps for carrying car or truck batteries.
  • Make sure when workers are handling materials that are likely to puncture, abrade, or irritate the hands or arms, the worker wears the appropriate PPE to prevent injury (unless the use of the PPE will cause a greater hazard).
  • Make sure workers wear appropriate PPE or other means of equal protection when handling or using acids, caustics, or similar harmful substances, or when footwear is required. See the Personal Protective Equipment document for more details.

Decreasing lifting demands

Employers can help decrease lifting demands by:

  • Eliminating heavy lifting tasks.
  • Planning the workflow. Poor planning of the workflow may result in repeated lifting of the same object.
  • Decreasing the weight of handled objects to acceptable limits.
  • Reducing the weight by assigning two people to lift the load, or by splitting the load into two or more containers. Use lightweight but sturdy containers to help decrease the weight of the load.
  • Change how the load is moved. Lowering objects causes less strain than lifting. Pulling objects is easier than carrying. Pushing is less demanding than pulling.
  • Change work area layouts. Reduce travel, horizontal, and vertical distances to lower work demands.
  • Pace the work appropriately, especially repetitive handling tasks. More time between tasks reduces the frequency of handling and allows for a rest period.
  • Alternate heavy tasks with lighter ones to reduce the build-up of fatigue.

Safe Lifting

Note that there is no single correct way to perform every lift. Onsite, task-specific training is essential.

  • Before lifting, check to see if any mechanical aids such as hoists, lift trucks, dollies, or wheelbarrows are available.
  • Plan and prepare for the lift. Protect your feet and hands with sturdy shoes and work gloves. Test the load for weight and stability. Get help with heavy or awkward loads.
  • Grasp with both hands. Keep the item stable.
  • Slide or pull the load towards your stomach, tightening the muscles as you get ready to lift.
  • Lift the load as close to your body as possible.
  • Stay centred. Hold the load between shoulder and knee heights and do not overreach.
  • Step or pivot while moving with a load. Do not twist or side bend.
  • Try not to bend. If you must, bend your knees to reach or place low-level objects.


Workers must:

  • Follow safe lifting practices.
  • Know how to recognize a lifting hazard and report concerns.
  • Take rest breaks to prevent fatigue.
  • Report any discomfort to your supervisor.
  • Use suitable personal protective equipment (e.g., acid resistant gloves, aprons, and goggles or face shields), and use carrying straps when handling storage batteries or electrolyte.
  • Use suitable protective clothing when handling objects with sharp edges, fins, slivers, splinters, or similar dangerous projecting parts, or when handling hot, caustic, or corrosive material.

General Regulations


Section 43.8 Handling materials

43.8 The employer shall ensure that

(a) where practicable, mechanical appliances shall be provided and used for lightening and carrying materials and articles;

(b) workers assigned to handle material shall be instructed how to lift and carry material on an individual basis, the overriding factor being the physical condition of each worker including sex and age when relevant;

(c) where heavy objects are lifted or carried by two or more workers, the raising and lowering of the loads shall be governed by well understood signals in order to ensure unity of action;

(d) where heavy objects, such as loaded drums or tanks, are handled on inclines in either direction

(i) ropes or other tackle shall be used to control their motion, in addition to the necessary chocks or wedges, and

(ii) workers shall be prohibited from standing between the skids on the downhill side;

(e) where heavy objects are moved by means of rollers, bars or sledges shall be used instead of hands or feet for changing the direction of the rollers while in motion;

(f) workers handling objects with sharp edges, fins, slivers, splinters or similar dangerous projecting parts, or handling hot, caustic or corrosive material, shall be provided with and shall use suitable protective clothing and equipment;

(g) unless specific instructions are given to the contrary, loaded boxes and crates shall be piled on the sides having largest area;

(h) the piles shall be effectively cross-tied by suitable means;

(i) loaded cartons shall not be piled to such a height as to cause collapse of the lower cartons in the pile and shall be protected against moisture;

(j) lumber stored in yards shall be piled on supports above the grounds, the horizontal or slightly inclined layers separated by tie pieces, the ends of which will not project into walkways;

(k) pipe and bar stock shall, where practicable, be piled on stable storage racks so located that the withdrawal of the material does not create a hazard;

(l) where empty barrels or drums, large pipe, rolls of paper or other cylindrical objects are piled on their sides, the piles shall be symmetrical and stable; and every unit in the bottom row shall be carefully wedged;

(m) where storage racks are not provided for pipe and bar stock, the stock shall be piled on layers resting on wood strips with stock blocks fixed on the ends or on metal bars with unturned end;

(n) where loaded barrels, drums or keys are piled on their ends, the piles should be low and two planks should be laid side by side on top of each row before another row is started;

(o) equipment or objects, such as foundry flasks, forging dies, foundry castings and the like, shall be piled in a stable, orderly way on level and substantial foundation and arranged in order of size and type.

[EC2021-126, s. 3]


Section 44.2 Safety equipment

44.2 The employer shall provide and shall instruct the worker to wear acid resistant gloves, aprons, goggles or face shields and straps for carrying car or truck batteries when handling storage batteries or electrolyte.

[EC2021-126, s. 3]

Section 44.3 Safety equipment

44.3 The worker shall wear acid resistant gloves, aprons, and goggles or face shields and use appropriate carrying straps when handling storage batteries or electrolyte.

[EC2021-126, s. 3]


Section 45.13 Hands

45.13 The employer shall ensure that all persons handling materials likely to puncture, abrade or irritate hands or arms, shall wear personal protective equipment to prevent such injuries, except when the use of this equipment introduces equal or greater hazards.

Section 45.14 Handling acids, etc.

45.14 The employer shall ensure that workers handling or using acids, caustics, steam, abrasives, hot fluid jets, or similar harmful substances, shall use suitable personal protective equipment, or other means shall be adopted that will provide protection against these hazards.

[EC2021-126, s. 3]

Section 45.15 Footwear

45.15 The employer shall ensure that a worker on a worksite or at any place of employment who is exposed to a hazard which could injure the foot wears footwear which meets the standards and specifications of CSA Standard Z195-14 Protective Footwear or a standard offering equivalent protection.

[EC2021-126, ss. 3, 43]

R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. O-1.01

Section 12 Duties of employers

12. (1) An employer shall ensure

(a) that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace;

(b) that any item, device, material, equipment or machinery provided for the use of workers at a workplace is properly maintained, and is properly equipped with the safety features or devices, as recommended by the manufacturer or required by the regulations;

(c) that such information, instruction, training, supervision and facilities are provided as are necessary to ensure the occupational health and safety of the workers;

(d) that workers and supervisors are familiar with occupational health or safety hazards at the workplace;

(e) that workers are made familiar with the proper use of all safety features or devices, equipment and clothing required for their protection; and

(f) that the employer's undertaking is conducted so that workers are not exposed to occupational health or safety hazards as a result of the undertaking.

(2) An employer shall

(a) consult and cooperate with the joint occupational health and safety committee or the representative, as applicable;

(b) cooperate with any person performing a duty or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations;

(c) provide such additional training of committee members as may be prescribed by the regulations;

(d) comply with this Act and the regulations and ensure that workers at the workplace comply with this Act and the regulations; and

(e) where an occupational health and safety policy or occupational health and safety program is required under this Act, establish the policy or program.

(3) An employer shall establish and implement as a policy, in accordance with the regulations, measures to prevent and investigate occurrences of harassment in the workplace.

[S.P.E.I. 2018, c. 45, s. 3]