Unsafe Lifting Practices Guide

Unsafe Lifting Practices Guide

Moving and Handling

Care Learning

3 mins READ

Moving and handling people safely is crucial in health and social care, focusing on client safety and dignity. Safe practices enhance clients’ comfort and well-being while protecting caregivers from injuries.

Clients in health and social care settings have different mobility levels and may need help with basic movements, like getting out of bed, transferring to a wheelchair, or adjusting their position.

Using proper techniques and equipment reduces the risk of falls, skin injuries, and other complications. This improvement elevates the overall quality of care.

Safe moving and handling practices are essential for effective care. By avoiding risky techniques, caregivers protect their health and ensure clients’ dignity, comfort, and safety.

Health and social care professionals must get regular training, use the right equipment, and follow established protocols. This creates a safe environment where both clients and caregivers can thrive without injury risk.

Unsafe techniques can cause significant harm. Clients may suffer joint dislocations, muscle strains, or chronic issues like joint degradation and persistent pain. Pain during transfers can also lead to anxiety and a lack of trust in caregivers, impacting their well-being and mental health.

For caregivers, these methods often result in musculoskeletal injuries such as back pain, shoulder strain, and repetitive stress injuries. Long-term use of poor lifting techniques can cause chronic conditions that hinder job performance and might even force them out of the profession early.

We will explain some of the common unsafe lifting practices, including their risk to both the caregiver and client.

The Australian Lift

The Australian Lift involves two caregivers who position themselves on either side of a client who needs help.

The technique requires the caregivers to crouch and place their shoulders directly under the client’s armpits. The caregivers then stand up simultaneously, lifting the client off the ground.

Risks for the Client:

  • Shoulder Joint Stress: The lift places a significant amount of pressure on the client’s shoulder joints, which can cause pain and potential injury.
  • Risk of Falls: If the caregivers cannot synchronise their movements perfectly, the client may lose balance and fall, leading to severe injuries.
  • Discomfort and Pain: The lifting method can cause considerable discomfort to the client because of the awkward positioning and direct pressure under the armpits.

Risk for the Caregiver:

  • Musculoskeletal Injuries: The lift puts a high level of strain on the caregiver’s back, shoulders, and arms, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Coordination Issues: Maintaining balanced lifting between two caregivers can be challenging, risking further complications and potential injuries.
  • Posture Strain: The crouching and lifting movement is physically demanding, leading to poor ergonomic posture and increased chances of immediate and chronic injury.

The Drag Lift

The Drag Lift entails pulling or dragging the client from a seated or lying position into a standing or seated position.

The caregiver places their hands under the client’s arms and pulls upward, using their own body weight as leverage.

Risks for the Client:

  • Skin Abrasions and Bruising: The direct contact and dragging motion can cause friction-related injuries such as skin abrasions and bruising, particularly in the sensitive underarm area.
  • Shoulder Dislocation or Damage: The sudden, forceful upward motion can lead to shoulder dislocation or other forms of joint damage.
  • General Discomfort: The client may experience significant discomfort because of the abrupt and forceful nature of the lift.

Risk for the Caregiver:

  • Back and Shoulder Strain: The drag lift requires significant physical effort, often resulting in strain and potential injury to the caregiver’s back and shoulders.
  • Chronic Injuries: Repeated use of this method can cause long-term musculoskeletal issues, leading to chronic pain and debilitating conditions.
  • Accidents from Coordination Issues: Poor coordination while dragging can cause accidents, posing risks for both the caregiver and the client.

The Orthodox Lift

The Orthodox Lift requires two caregivers to stand on either side of the client. They each clasp their wrists under the client’s thighs and back, creating a secure grip. Together, they lift the client off the ground in unison.

Risks for the Client:

  • Spinal and Lower Limb Injuries: Improper alignment during the lift can place undue stress on the client’s spine and lower limbs, leading to injuries.
  • Increased Discomfort: The positioning and nature of the lift can lead to discomfort and stress for the client, making the experience painful and unsettling.
  • Risk of Falls: Any misalignment or lack of synchronisation during the lift increases the likelihood of losing balance, posing a severe fall risk.

Risks for the Caregiver:

  • Lower Back Strain: The nature of the lift places significant strain on the caregivers’ lower backs, risking acute injury and chronic conditions.
  • Shoulder and Wrist Stress: The awkward wrist grip and lifting posture can lead to strain and injuries in the shoulders and wrists.
  • Poor Ergonomic Posture: The physical demands of the Orthodox Lift often result in poor ergonomic posture, contributing to cumulative musculoskeletal damage.


Avoiding unsafe lifting practices is essential in health and social care to protect both clients and caregivers from the severe risks associated with these methods.

Prioritising safe, ergonomic lifting techniques and using appropriate equipment can enhance the quality of care and ensure a safer working environment for everyone involved.

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