Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Urban Vitality

Load knowledge affects low-back loading and control of balance in lifting tasks

Abstract: This study investigated the effect of the presence or absence of load knowledge on the low-back loading and the control of balance in lifting tasks.

Low-back loading was quantified by the net sagittal plane torque at the lumbo-sacral joint. The control of balance was studied by the position of the centre of gravity relative to the base of support, the horizontal and vertical momentum of the centre of gravity and the angular momentum of the whole body. In a first experiment, 8 male subjects lifted a rather heavy load (22% of body mass), using a leglift and a backlift, while they were familiar with the load mass.

To counteract the threat to balance, imposed by picking up a load in front of the body, the subjects performed specific preparations, based upon the known load mass; prior to load pick-up, profound changes in the horizontal and angular momentum were found. The preparations were technique specific. Preserving balance seemed easier while picking up a load with a backlift than with a leglift. In the second experiment, 25 male subjects lifted a 6 kg box, which they expected to be 16 kg, because, in a series of lifts, the load mass was changed from 16 to 6 kg without their knowledge. Despite the 10 kg difference in actual load mass, the net torque at the lumbo-sacral joint was not different between lifting 6 and 16 kg, until 150 ms after box lift-off. Moreover, lifting of the overestimated load mass caused a disturbance of balance in 92% of the trials. The postural reactions aimed at regaining balance were not accompanied by an increased low-back loading.

It was concluded that the absence of load knowledge, and the following overestimation of the load mass to be lifted, lead to an increased mechanical load on the lumbar spine and to an increased risk of losing balance in lifting tasks. Both events may contribute to a higher risk of low-back injury in manual materials handling tasks.

Link pdf


Commissaris, D. A. C. M., & Toussaint, H. M. 'Load knowledge affects low-back loading and control of balance in lifting tasks'. In: Ergonomics, 40(5), 559-575, 1997.

Gepubliceerd door  Kenniscentrum Bewegen, Sport en Voeding 1 mei 1997


mei 1997


Lector Huub Toussaint