• By Rick Thiesse

Lift your pot of gold safely

March 17, 2017

a green pot full of gold coins sitting on a table

On St. Patrick’s Day, children and adults alike hope to find that lucky pot of gold. Unfortunately, gold happens to be really heavy! Dawn Ortiz, an occupational therapist and certified safe patient handling professional for Mayo Clinic Health System, emphasizes the importance of safe lifting and carrying techniques to avoid injury.

“It’s very common to strain back muscles from improper technique and quick, unnatural movements of the body while handling items. What most people don’t realize is the greatest risk factor for strain injuries is excessive horizontal reaching." To protect the back when lifting a heavy object, Ortiz says her golden rules are to keep it close and keep the curves.  In other words, keep the object close to your body, don't over extend and maintain your posture.

Follow these directions to lift a pot of gold (and other heavy objects) safely:

  1. Before you lift, think through it. Find a good grip, and decide where you're going and how you'll get it there. If it’s too heavy to lift safely, find someone to help you, make several trips carrying lighter and smaller amounts of gold coins, or use a material handling device.
  2. Stand as close to the pot as possible, positioning it between your knees as you squat. Keep your feet parallel, or stagger one foot slightly ahead of the other.
  3. Have a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  4. As you stand, maintain the natural curve in your lower back, and keep your core muscles tight. Use your leg muscles — not your back — to lift the pot of gold. Do not lift by bending forward.
  5. Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees ─ not your back. Don't twist as you lift.
  6. Keep good posture while standing. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back. Imagine there is a cup of water on your head, and you don’t want to spill it.
  7. Hold the load as close to your body as possible ─ near the level of your belly button.
  8. Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders, hips and feet moving in the same direction at the same time as you move. Take small steps.
  9. Set down your load as carefully as you picked it up, squatting with the knees and hips.