Abstract The energy consumption in the workspace envelope around operators was studied for lifting and lowering tasks. The entire working space was bisected into two identical halves. Within one, 81 target locations were selected. Six male young adults (mean age 27.3 years and mean weight 73.8 kg) stoop lifted and lowered 2.5, 5.0, and 10.0 kg loads from floor to their respective knee, hip, and shoulder heights in mid-sagittal, 30° lateral, and 60° lateral planes at half, three-quarters, and full reach distances. The steady state oxygen uptake was measured for quiet standing and the 81 activities. The energy expenditure and inspiratory ventilation volume was subjected to analysis of variance and post hoc analysis. The ANOVA revealed a significant effect of the task reach distance, level of lift and the magnitude of weight ( p < 0.001). The plane of activity had no significant effect on metabolic cost. The increased reach of the task required 11–41% more energy and the increased load required 28–100% more energy. A high multiple correlation ( r = 0.86, p < 0.001) was achieved for the energy cost of lifting/lowering.