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Special Bulletin No. 2



ii /() ·Y.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

(Revised 1946)
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

I. Guard against injury to physique in the lifting of heavy weights.
II. Analyze the elements in weight lifting to develop methods of saving energy.
III. Overcome the dangers involved in lifting heavy weights by using certain methods.
1. Introduce lifting and conveying devices.
2. Provide efficient conditions for work.
3. Inform workers as to proper methods of lifting.
IV. Train workers to use the most economical methods of carrying weights.
V. Protect the health of workers in heavy industries by physical examinations.
VI. State regulation of weight lifting is more effective through the general a1.1thority
granted regulatory bodies than through specific laws fixing maximum weights.

The selection of a woman for a job requiring constant
lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling should depend not only
on her weight and height but on the amount of strength she
has. An apparently sturdy woman may find such work on
heavy materials far beyond her capacity, whereas a slight
woman may have the strength to do it without injury to
herself if she does it properly. The plant physician should
decide on a woman's physical ability in each heavy job.
The distances that loads are to be carried also should be
considered in determining their size; and not only how far
they are to be carried, but how constantly, and whether up
or down stairs, through crowded aisles, or over uneven floors
or ground.
As with lifting and carrying, the safe load to be pushed in
a wheelbarrow or a cart will vary with the conditions of work.
For short periods at a stretch, over a smooth floor and on the
level, a woman can push more than she can if the work is
constant over a period of hours, if the ground is rough, or if
she pushes up and down ramps or other elevations. It is important also that whoever loads the wheelbarrow or cart
should pile the material carefully, so as to balance the load,
to relieve the woman of the weight as much as possible, and
to avert the danger of spills.
Many occupations in which women are employed involve
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the lifting and carrying of loads. The work of women m
service and trade industries (such as waitresses), and in
factory production, frequently brings exposure to the strain
of heavy lifting. Even light manufacturing involves the lifting and carrying of materials during processes of manufacturing or packaging; and the heavier industries bring additional problems. A list of jobs on which women were found
by the Women's Bureau to be working during World War
I, 1 and which has been duplicated during the past few years,
includes, for example:
Lathe operation on heavy work. H eaviest in munitions plants, where
they cut shells weighing 19 to 100 pounds. (On heavy shells mechanical
lifting aids were available.)
Operating automatic gear cutting or shaping machines to cut spur and ·
bevel gears. Blanks from which gears were cut by women were very
Turning metal into rods, bars, wire, or sheets. Feeding and receiving
strips through rolls. Much of the work entailed lifting of heavy ingots.
Core making. Heaviest core made successfully by hand by women in
26 firms studied weighed 45 pounds.
Loading shells. Lifting shell (weighing from approxim ately 20 pounds
up) , holding_plug against revolving shaft, which grasped plug and
unscrewed it.
Labor in petroleum refining. (369 women were found in 6 firms
employed as laborers in various types of heavy work.)
Tire-making processes. These involved lifting tires weighing 14 pounds
or more on and off spools. In some cases m en were hired to do the
Unskilled manual labor. M uch of this work involved lifting and pushing heavy materials. The maximum weight pushed by a woman was
750 pounds.
Loading and unloading.
Transporting material.
_Shoveling sand and coal.
Piling boards in lumber mills.

In Great Britain still further types of heavy work were done
by women during World War I. In a study of the physique
1 See Women's Bureau Bull. No. 12, 1920, especially pp. 100, 106-107, 108, 124, 128,
129-130, 133. (Out of print but available in libraries.)
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of over 3,000 industrial women, they were found doing severe
muscular work in the following occupations: 2
Chemical works-Navvy work: One woman shoveled 20 to 25 tons
of crude borite a day, lifting it to a height of about 2½ feet.
Brick setting and drawing- Filling and emptying ovens: Each girl carried three or four bricks, weighing 26 ¾ pounds each, a distance of 70
to 80 yards.
Brick molding: Slammed clay into wooden molds, then placed molded
brick to dry on steam-heated stone floor. Women wheeled barrows
containing 4 to 4½ hundredweight of bricks.
Tin-plate industry-Opening, cold rolling, reckoning, pickling: Lifting
was an essential part of each process. The average proportion of load
to body weight was found to be 58 percent for young girls.
Sanitary-pipe manufacture: Carrying pipes of 24 to 50 pounds about
40 yards to be dried. Average weight lifted , 6.6 tons a day. Also,
feeding pipe-making machines with wedges of clay. (The physique
of girls in this industry was poor.)
Nuts and bolts: Press operators carried pans of nuts ~nd bolts to their
benches, the size of the load being left entirely to the worker. One
woman carried as much as 93 percent of her body weight.
Pottery: Carrying of tiles, and baskets and bungs of biscuit ware.
Ordinarily two women carried basket between them.
Paper: Carrying bundles of paper for sorting. Average load 57 percent of worker's body weight.
Aerated waters and beer bottling: Stacking crates to heights sometimes
exceeding height of worker.
Woolen and worsted:

Load of 180 to 190 pounds carried by two

I. Guard Against Injury to Physique in the Lifting of
Heavy Weights ·
Much that may be said as to the proper methods of saving
human energy in weight lifting applies to men as well as to
women. Moreover, new applications of energy-saving lifting
devices in industry are appearing constantly. However,
2 Great Britain.
Industrial Fatigue Research Board, Report No. 44, The Physique
of Women in Industry, 1927, pp. 20, 21, 118, 120, 121, 122, 125.
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there still are important physical factors that must be considered as applying particularly to women.
1. Limited strength of average woman precludes her employment in

work that is excessively heavy.

It has been found that the strength of the average woman is
a little more than half that of the average man. This has been
substantiated again by recent reports, which continue to agree
with quite early studies made in Great Britain and other
European countries.
The International Labor Office accepts the results of JosephineJoteyko's researches in France . . She found that tests gave
the index of strength of women by the dynamometer as 570 /1000
that of man; the index of resistance by the ergograph as
679/1000. 3 Research by the British Industrial Fatigue Research
Board substantiates these findings. 4 Stm earlier, in fact, more
than 55 years ago, the Anthropological Institute of Great
Britain and Ireland concluded that "the female differs from the
male more conspicuously in strength than in any other particular." This conclusion was reached as a result of a study by a
pioneer authority in this field , Sir Francis Galton, who made
careful examination of almost 6,400 adults-4,726 men and
1,657 women. 5
2. Heavy lifting especially affects women's physical structure.

Continual lifting of heavy loads results in deformities of bone
structure that may have serious effects at childbirth. To quote
from findings of the International Labor Office: 6
When women have habitually to carry hea vy loads (e.g. in the
country or mountainous districts), skeletal deformities are noted (of
the vertebral column, lower limbs), altera tions in the thoracic capacity
and abdominal walls. Thus, for example, a broadening in the lumbar
region of the spine in women who carry loads with crushing together
of the vertebrae, bringing about diminution in height, deformity of the
pelv_ic basin with harmful effects on the development of pregnancy.
Occupational cramp of the la teral muscles of the neck, pains of the
3 Joteyko, Josephine, La Fatigu e et la R espiration Elementaire du Muscle.
1896. Quoted in International Labor Office, Occupation and Health, Brochure No.
152, Women 's Work, Geneva, 1929, p. 5.
4 Great Britain.
Industrial Fatigue Research Board, op. cit.
5 Galton, Sir Francis.
In Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain
and Ireland, vol. XIV, F ebruary 1885, pp. 275, 278.
6 International Labor Office, Occupation and H ealth, op. cit. , p . 18.
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brachial plexus, nerves, movable kidneys, cardiac and
thyroid hypertrophy, and so forth have been reported.

During pregnancy marked variations in certain physical
factors should be considered in connection with weight lifting.
Respiration, pulse rate, composition of the blood, and so forth,
which even in the normal woman differ from those of man,
show more marked variations during pregnancy. Pregnancy
affects .the work of the heart, increases the volume of the
blood, the venous blood pressure and the heart rate and displaces the heart upward. There is noticeable diminution of
the amplitude of the respiratory movements, and a diminution
of muscular power.
Similarly, some authorities have found that lifting aggravates menstrual troubles. A Russian investigation showed
menstrual trouble~ prevalent among 69 .5 to 78 percent of the
women who did heavy lifting and carrying, as against 26.5 to
39.2 percent among those in the occupations not requiring ·
weight lifting. These findings were based on ·a study of 1,450
women employed in the peat, coal, and metallurgical industries. As a control, women in textile work and tramway
conductors in Moscow were selected. The troubles referred
to were most frequent for the younger groups-19 to 25
years. Inquiry showed the difficulties to be in direct proportion to the amount of occupational work. 7

II. Analyze the Elements in Weight Lifting to Develop
Methods of Saving Energy
The elements entering into weight lifting and carrying must
be analyzed, and conditions and methods of work adapted to
the worker, in order to promote efficiency in the employment
of women in occupations of a heavy nature. To cio this,
scientific study should be given to the following factors, both
separately and in combi_n ation:
1. Weights of units lifted.
2. Ratio of load to body weight.
7 Okunjeva, Steinbach,, and Schtscheglowa, Moscow, 1927, quoted in International
Labor Office, Occupation and H ealth, Brochure No. 152, Women's Work, Geneva, 1929,
pp. 19-20; Moore and Barker , American Journal of Physiology, 1923, p . 405; Lee,
Frederic S. The Human Machine and Industrial Efficiency, London, 1918, pp. 58
and 59.
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Quantity lifted in a day.
Levels of lifting.
Compactness of load.
Distance and changes of level traversed in carrying load.
Interference of loads:
With normal gait.
With normal respiration.
With normal center of gravity.
With local movement, i. e., pressure on joints or bones or chafing
of skin, and so forth.
8. Temperature and ventilatiC?n of workplace.
9. Method of lifting:
a. Wide stance results in unnecessary strain on groin.
b. Lifting with shoulders lower than hips results in unnecessary
strain on back muscles.

III. Overcome the Dangers Involved in Lifting Heavy
Weights by Using Certain Methods
The analysis in the preceding paragraphs points naturally to
the means for the most efficient employment of women who
must use heavy materials or carry loads in connection with
their work.
1. Introduce lifting and conveying devices.

Mechanical devices for conveyance ·a re now designed to
meet almost every serious problem of weight lifting and
2. Provide efficient conditions for work.

The first step should be to plan the best possible arrangement of the work. Such arrangement should include 8 (1)
Reorganization of work lay-out to eliminate unnecessary
lifting from one level to another. Vertical lifting is most costly
in energy. Much lifting women do in feeding machines can
be eliminated by having material on a level with the machine;
(2) where lifting is necessary, arranging the work so that the
worker does not have to stack above her height; (3) reorganization of work lay-out to shorten distances where carrying is
necessary; (4) temperature and ventilation standards are of
particular importance, especially in heavy work whene allow8 Weight Lifting by Industrial Workers. Home Office Safety Pamph et No. 16,
London, 1937, pp. 16, 17, 18, 19.
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ance should be made for loss of excess
heat without undue chilling of body.
3. Inform workers as to proper methods
of lifting.

First instruction to the new employee is not sufficient. It must be
repeated often.
( 1) Women in particular should be
informed as to methods that will
prevent undue abdominal strain:
To keep the feet close to the object.
To use a narrow stance, the feet approximately 8 to 12 inches apart.

Figure 1.-Stacking above the
worker's height strains the
abdominal mu scles.

(2) Young girls need very special
supervision and training in proper
methods of lifting and carrying.
Studies show that young girls may
suffer. seriously from lifting because
of the possibility of malformation m
bone development.

Young girls and boys lack the judgment to determine the
unit of weight to be lifted. For example, investigation showed
that a girl suffering from a strained back was carrying about
two and a half times the norm al load, though she had to
walk only about 30 feet, because she was working on a
bonus system and wished to

save time. Other girls were
doing the same thing.

(3) Some methods of lifting and of carrying loads are
much more efficient and less
tiring than others, and
Figure 2.-With narrow stance and feet
workers should have instrucclose to object worker bends her knees,
brunt of strain on leg muscles
tion in these methods. Back ,. putting
rather than back. (By courtesy of
National Safety Council, Safety Fashmuscles are protected from
ions for Women in Industry, p. 10.)
strain and exert a minimum
of effort when the worker bends her knees, crouches bv the
object, then lifts by straightening the knees and standing erect.
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A frequent cause of back injury is improper lifting, that is, lifting with
the back muscles rather than the leg muscles. A special survey by
the New York Department of Labor found 72 cases of back injuries to
women lifting heavy materials in industries of the State in 1930 9 •

IV. Train Workers To Use the Most Economical Methods
of Carrying Weights
The major considerations in the carriage of weights are to
secure the greatest economy of effort consistent with efficient
work and to assure freedom from strain in carrying that must
be continued for a considerable period.
1. Of the common methods of carrying by women in industry
the most economical and comfortable is carriage on the
shoulder. This method leaves free the lower limbs and does
not result in fixation of the chest.
2. Tray carrying, a common job requirement for women in
factories as well as in domestic work and other service occupations, is satisfactory only for short distances and irregular work.
Local fatigue of arms and wrists is marked in continued transportation by this method. There may also be unpleasant
pressure on abdomen or thighs. The tray may interfere
seriously"with normal gait and alter bodily posture to the point
of greatly increasing fatigue. Prolonged work with such loads may
result in an habitual slouch. A load
carried in front of a worker may
interfere with. vision of the floor surface and be a ·cause of falling. Heavy
loads interfere with respiratory and
circulatory functions. Where this
type of carrying cannot be avoided,
work periods should be appropriately short, or rest periods should be
especially frequent.
3. Carrying bundles. at the sides,

·,s o New York. Industrial Bulletin, April 1931,
Figure 3.-Tray carrying
fatiguing to arms and may be Compensated Back Injuries in New York State in
a cause of fal Is.
- 1930, pp. 222-224.
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one in either hand, has the advantage of not disturbing body
balance and not interfering with freedom of locomotion. However, marked local fatigue 'in hands and arms makes this an
impractical method for long continued
work. The drag on the shoulders
interferes somewhat with respiration.
4. Carrying on the hip requires
bending of the body to the side to compensate for the lateral load. It interferes with normal walking and to
some extent with natural breathing.
Workers find it particularly tiring
because of fatigue to the arm and
rubbing of the hip. For certain purposes it may be an advantage, since
the load can be taken up from a table
with ease and it leaves one arm free.
Importance of rest periods in heavy occupations.

Figure 4.-Fatigue of hand s
and arms ma ke s this an
continuous carrying.

If awkward postures in lifting and
carrying are unavoidable, they
should be maintained only for short
Rest periods have been used with
good results in heavy industries.
They are essential because of the
effect of lifting and carrying on
respiration-the need for making
up oxygen deficits. The length of
such rests should be related to the
duration of the periods of muscular
work and its severity.

Figure 5.-1 nterference with
normal re s piration and gait
results from carrying weights
on the hip.
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V. Protect the Health of Workers
in Heavy Industries by Physical
During World War I good results in protecting the heal th of


women workers were obtained in some companies by preemployment physical examinations. Where the employment
rights of the worker are adequately protected, such examinations are advisable in heavy industries employing women.
In these examinations it is especially important that proper
safeguards be assured for the worker. It is suggested that a
plan similar to the Wisconsin one be put into effect for that
purpose. This plan, adopted unanimously by representatives
of organized labor, calls for examinations to be made by a
physician selected by the employer. In the <;vent of grievance
the examined employee makes written complaint to the State
Industrial Commission, an investigation is made, and if the
grievance is justified the employer is required to have all
further examinations made by another physician. 10
The job should be fitted to the capacities of the individual.
When a prospective worker gives a history suggesting disorders
such as tumors· or complications of pregnancy, examination
should te whether carrying heavy materials may be
suitable work. In every case the medical history should
include a definite statement about the interval between a
previous pregnancy and employment involving heavy lifting.
Of course, there are many disorders not peculiar to women
that should preclude employment in heavy work and should
be found in examination prior to employment. Such examination should weed out cases of heart disease, hypertension,
obesity, neurocircula tory asthenia, tuberculosis, hernia, and
other conditions.

VI. State Regulation of Weight Lifting Is More Effective
Through the General Authority Granted Regulatory
Bodies Than Through Specific Laws Fixing Maximum
Though it is frequently stated that the most economical
load is about 35 percent of body weight, there are so many
variations both above and below this figure in individual
cases that scientific establishment of a maximum that would
to Wisconsin Industrial Commission. Physical Examination of Industrial Workers.
Madison, Wis., 1939.
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apply to all women is impossible. All the elements in weight
lifting, such as compactness of load, levels of lifting, and so
forth, must be considered as we_ll as the physical characteristics
of the individual who is to do the work.
In line with the method of protection through individual
physical examination, State administrative bodies engaged in
factory inspection should have authority to inspect and to
ad vise and fix rules concerning conditions under which women
work where the jobs involve heavy lifting.
The present State regulations pertaining to weight lifting
serve chiefly to show that a need for protection of women
has been recognized in nine States. The following list summarizes these regulations:

1. Object weighing 50 pounds or over must be equipped with pulleys,
casters, or other contrivances so that it can be moved easily. (Any
establishment employing women.)
2. Prohibits the carrying of an object weighing 70 pounds or over, up
or down a stairway that rises more than 5 feet from its base. (Any
occupation, trade, or industry.)
3. Limits to 25 pounds weight to be lifted or carried. (Any occupation, trade, or industry.) [This 25-pound limitation in practice superseded the SO-pound maximum fixed by statute.]
Exceptions permitted during war period, upon investigation.

1. Receptacle weighing with its contents 75 pounds or over may not be
moved unless provided with pulleys or casters. (Manufacturing and
2. Prohibits lifting of cores the total weight of which exceeds 25 pounds,
unless assisted by mechanical appliances that limit physcial effort to
25 pounds. ( Core rooms.)
Exceptions permitted during war period, upon investigation.

Prohibits lifting of more than 35 pounds or carrying of more than 20
pounds when ascending stairs. Overhead lifting or stacking forbidden.
(Any occupation.)

Prohibits handling of cores the total weight of which exceeds 25 pounds.
( Core rooms.)

Prohibits handling of cores when the combined weight -of core,
core-box and plate exceeds 25 pounds. (Core rooms.)
Exceptions permitted during war period, upon investigation.
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Omo.Prohibits employment requiring frequent or repeated lifting of
weights in excess of 25 pounds. (Any occupation.)
During war period 35 pounds permitted.

Limits to 25 pounds weight ~o be lifted and to 75 pounds any' article
or receptacle carried for more than 10 feet. (Any occupation, trade,
or industry.)
Order rescinded for duration of the war emergency.

Prohibits lifting of "burdens" in excess of 30 pounds and carrying of
"burdens" in excess of 75 pounds. (Any establishment.)

Prohibits lifting an excessive burden. (Canning; fruit and vegetable
packing; manufacturing or other mercantile establishments. The
order last-named adds "or carrying" to the prohibition.)


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