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Poultry Processing Industry eTool

Ergonomics - Heavy Lifting

Many jobs and tasks in poultry processing can require workers to lift, push, pull and carry heavy loads. Heavy lifting can result in overexertion and injury to the lower back.

Some of the poultry processing tasks that involve heavy lifting include the following:
  • At some plants live birds are delivered in small cages that workers must manually unload from trucks and manually empty.

    • A small cage of live birds can weigh more than 50 pounds.
  • Because of line breakdowns or other process demands, sometimes workers must manually unload semi-processed birds from transport tubs to conveyor or rehang lines.

    • Workers usually lift more than 1 bird at a time — 3 birds in a hand creates a load of 20 pounds.

      • Lifts can be made from almost floor height as the tub empties to above shoulder height, depending on the height of the rehang conveyor.
  • Often workers must manually move scraps and parts around the plant.

    • Totes of scrap meat and skin can easily weigh more than 50 pounds.
  • Workers must manually load packed boxes of product onto pallets and move loaded pallets.

    • A box of processed chicken typically weighs between 40 to 80 pounds.

      • Lifting frequencies as high as 10 per minute are possible.
    • A loaded pallet can easily weigh more than 1500 pounds.
How much weight a worker can safely lift depends on a number of factors. When the factors are such that the worker can assume an “ideal” body posture during the lift, the worker is able to lift greater loads. However, when the body posture is not ideal (e.g., back is bent or arms are outstretched), then the amount of weight the worker can safely lift is reduced. Factors affecting how much weight a worker can safely lift include:

Lifting factors More weight can be safely lifted when: The amount of weight that can safely be lifted is reduced when:
How far from the body the load is held (horizontal distance). The load is close to the body and not too large/bulky, which allows the arms and elbows to be close to the torso during the lift. The load is farther away from the body or is large/bulky, forcing the arms and elbows away from the torso during the lift.
How high or low is the lift (vertical distance). The lift is at waist height. The lift must be made from below the knees or above the shoulder.
How much the worker must twist to lift and move the load. The lift is performed in front of the body. The worker must twist the torso to lift and move the load.
How often the lift is repeated. The lift is performed only occasionally. The lift is performed repeatedly (several times a minute).
How far the load is carried. The lift does not involve carrying. The load must be carried a distance (more than 3 feet).
How the load is gripped. The load has handles. The load does not have handles or is slippery.

General controls to reduce lifting hazards:
  • Use lift assists (hand dollies, carts, lift tables, forklifts).
  • Reduce size of product boxes to lighten load.
  • Arrange work space so employee can move closer to load and perform lifts with arms close to body.
  • Use adjustable palletizers that allow loading at waist height.
  • Use pallets that can rotate.
  • Use tubs with adjustable bottoms to reduce need for bending over to remove product.
  • Put objects to be lifted at waist level.
  • Arrange workstation so lift is done in front and without twisting.
  • Use chutes and slides to move loads across conveyors or in new direction.
  • Put handles or grips on boxes.
  • Use gloves that aid in holding slippery objects.
NIOSH Lifting Guidelines and Calculators

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