OSHA Requirements for Lifting

by Keith Allen; Updated September 26, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have a set requirement limiting the amount of weight a person can be required to lift in the performance of his job. They do have guidelines specifying the general duty guidelines of jobs and do expect employers to set safe lifting limits for employees. OSHA suggests that employers follow the lifting guidelines of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Recommended Weight Limit

NIOSH has come up with a formula to calculate the recommended weight limit.

LC is the load constant or the fixed weight to be lifted. HM is the horizontal multiplier or the distance the weight will be moved from left to right. VM is the vertical multiplier or the height the weight will be lifted. DM is the distance multiplier and is taken from a table provided by NIOSH. AM is asymmetric multiplier and is based on how close the load is to the center of the body. It is also taken from a table supplied by NIOSH. FM is the frequency multiplier and based on the number of times the lift is performed per minute and the length of time the lift takes and is also taken from a NIOSH table. CM is the coupling multiplier and is based on the type of grip the person doing the lifting can get on the package and is taken from a NIOSH table.

Analyzing the Task

NIOSH provides worksheets allowing managers to input the measurements necessary to calculate the recommended weight limit for a task. The same worksheets include calculations for the lifting index. This is the actual weight of the object divided by the recommended weight limit. Similar worksheets can be completed for the entire task the worker is asked to perform or the individual lifting components of the task. If the lift index exceeds 1.0, meaning the actual weight lifted exceeds the recommended weight limit, changes to the task may be necessary.

Meeting Guidelines

Because the formula for the calculation of the recommended weight limit includes the distance the weight is moved as well as how the load is carried, changes in these areas can bring a task within the guidelines while still moving the same weight. Managers should also follow all OSHA record-keeping requirements concerning lifting tasks and back-related injuries.

About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.