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Save the Back



Some jobs around the home (inside and out) are simply a lot harder than others. They might be back-breaking, or simply awkward; involving lots of heavy lifting, moving or digging.

Manually Lifting Objects

Poor lifting technique is probably the biggest single cause of back injuries. Where possible use alternative ways of moving objects, such as a trolley or a wheelbarrow. If you intend to manually handle an object, then use the following good lifting habits:

· Test the weight of any thing you are going to lift carefully. Simply pushing it, or tipping it a little will help give you a “feel” for how heavy it is.

· Avoid twisting or jerking while lifting or carrying anything, or you might injure the joints which help guide movement in the back.

· Know your limitations & don’t push it…you may suffer for life.

· Always warm up and stretch before lifting.

· Before you lift, make sure you have a clear path with plenty of width, nothing to trip over or bump into, and check that floor surfaces aren’t slippery.

How To Lift

· Stand close to the object you wish to lift.

· Place your feet shoulder width apart.

· Bend down towards the object from the hips and knees.

· Take hold of the object carefully, making sure that you have a good grip.

· Use your leg muscles to lift your body and the object upwards.

· Keep your back as straight as you can at all times while doing the lift, and when moving the object.

· Lowering the object should be the reverse of the lifting technique.

Other Ways Of Lifting

· Trolleys, pulleys or wheelbarrows can be manoeuvred under items to be lifted, or used to transport items once you have manually lifted them.

· Leverage can be easily applied to heavy objects to either raise them enough to move a trolley beneath them, or to actually move the object short distances using a crow bar.

· Ropes can be used to drag or lift items.

Using Machines To Do The Heavy Work

There are a wide variety of machines available to do the heavy work for you. Small earthmoving jobs in easy‑to‑dig soils can be readily done with a wheelbarrow and shovel. Most small jobs though, will benefit from additional rotary hoeing to loosen the soil (especially clay soils). It will then be easier to work the soil with a shovel. Landscapers tend to use heavy duty barrows, whereas general home gardening tasks may only need a light duty barrow.

Medium to large jobs (anything requiring movement of more than a couple of cubic metres of soil) will benefit from the use of some type of earthmoving machinery. These include:


A small machine with rubber tyres and a tractor bucket on the front. The bucket can lift and carry loose soil, rocks, sand, etc. It can dig in soil to some extent, but not as much as some other machines. It is more likely to get bogged in wet or loose soil than a backhoe or dozer. Being the smallest, and often the cheapest to hire, a bobcat is most appropriate in confined spaces around a house on a small block (often it is the only machine small enough to gain access to the backyard).


Larger than a bobcat, with a bucket on the front and a digging scoop on a moveable arm at the back. It can do everything that a bobcat can do, and more. It is better at digging, it can dig trenches for pipes or foundations and can place rocks easier and more precisely than a bobcat or bulldozer.


Moves on "tracks" (like an army tank) rather than rubber wheels. It is not prone to getting bogged like a backhoe or bobcat and is able to work on steeper slopes than wheeled machines. Has a bucket or blade on the front. Good for digging and shaping the ground, but not always good for moving materials or for trenching. In recent years a range of mini-dozers have become available, which are more suitable for small areas.

Article by John Mason Dip.Hort.Sc.FIOH Principal ACS Distance Education

For more information on courses and books offered world wide through John’s school, see www.hortcourses.com , www.acsgarden.com , www.acsbookshop.com

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