Many workplaces require lifting as part of daily functions, and others will only occasionally ask employees to lift items. So, how much should I lift? Is there a maximum lifting weight for employees? Can I refuse to carry a heavy load?

Workplace safety is something that must be taken very seriously in every work environment. Whether you work in an office, warehouse, factory, or elsewhere you must be aware of the regulations regarding the maximum lifting weight at work.

The type of materials being lifted is the first thing that must be considered before deciding if the item can and should be lifted by an employee.

Under the legislative requirement, as part of the Canada Labour Code, Part II Manual Handling of Materials, for all federal workplaces it states the following:

14.46 (1) Where, because of the weight, size, shape, toxicity or other characteristic of materials, goods or things, the manual handling of materials, goods or things may be hazardous to the health or safety of an employee, the employer shall issue instructions that the materials, goods or things shall, where reasonably practicable, not be handled manually.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the employer shall take into account the frequency and duration of manual lifting and the distances and terrain over which an object is to be manually lifted or carried in deciding whether the manual handling of the materials, goods or things may be hazardous to the health or safety of an employee.

Simply put, if the item is hazardous to lift, then it should not be handled manually. Depending on the exact nature of the item you might want to move a different approach might be necessary. In addition to considering the item itself, the employer has an obligation to consider the space over which the object is to be carried. If the object has to be moved over wet, icy, uneven, or otherwise dangerous terrain it should not be transported manually. The type of work performed by the employee doing the lifting is an important consideration. The Canada Labour code also states:

14.47 No employer shall require an employee who is an office worker and whose primary tasks do not include manual lifting or carrying to manually lift or carry materials, goods or things in excess of 23 kg.

14.48 Where an employee is required manually to lift or carry loads weighing in excess of 10 kg, the employer shall instruct and train the employee

(a) in a safe method of lifting and carrying the loads that will minimize the stress on the body; and

(b) in a work procedure appropriate to the employee’s physical condition and the conditions of the work place.

An employer can ask an office worker to lift or carry materials up to 23kgs (51 lbs), however if the item or object weighs more than 10kg (22 lbs) then they must be trained prior to lifting. The employer must only assign lifting at work to people who are able to do so comfortably and without any risk to themselves or others.

In some workplaces such as warehouses and construction sites, employees have regular functions which require heavier lifting. In these cases, the Labour Code states:

14.49 Where an employee is required manually to lift or carry loads weighing in excess of 45 kg, the employer shall give instructions to the employee in accordance with section 14.48 that are

(a) set out in writing;

(b) readily available to the employee; and

(c) kept by the employer for a period of two years after they cease to apply.

Employees whose role involves physical work and heavy lifting can lift over 45kg provided they are physically able to do so and have received proper training and instructions are readily available.

Remember, workers have the right to know about the risks of the tasks they are asked to perform and have the right to refuse unsafe work.

Under the CLC, Part II, Manual Handling of Material regulation, it outlines the various requirements for office workers and employees who are required to lift or carry manually. Each section provides additional requirements depending on the weight of the load (e.g. instruction, training or work procedure)

After reading the CLC, Part II, consider these questions:

  • Am I lifting too much ?
  • Should I use a back belt ?
  • How do I write the instructions or work procedures ?
  • What is the proper lifting technique ?
  • How can I measure the lifting, pushing, pulling and carry requirements of my job ?


At Auspice Safety Inc. we can assist and provide all workplaces with program development, training and specific measurements for manual material handling. We are able to measure the lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying requirements with a Physical Demands Analysis or Job Task Analysis. We have assisted organization’s across North America, and we look forward to assisting your workplace. Please contact us at 613.558.5385 or