What is manual handling?

To put it simply it’s:

lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving any load

Transported or supported by hand or bodily force.

manual handling boxes


Factors you should consider when handling loads

To prevent risk of injury there are certain factors about the activity that you should consider first:

  • The weight of the item/s you will be moving
  • The number of times you will have to pick it up or carry it
  • The distance you have to carry it
  • What height you are picking it up from or putting it down e.g from the floor, to a shelf
  • If you have to make any awkward body movements like twisting, bending or stretching

There’s no need to be a hero, if you can’t manage it yourself. Don’t attempt it.


Risk of injuries from poor manual handling

Manual handling issues can happen in every workplace. It makes no difference if you are working in a factory, a hairdressers, a shop or a bank. If you are going to be handling loads, even if it’s simply picking up a box of delivery, then you can cause an injury.

The most common manual handling injury is musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
This is the injury, damage or disorder of the joints or tissues in the limbs or the back.

According to the LFS cases of musculoskeletal disorders account for more than a third of all work related illnesses! That’s 1.1 million people in the UK suffering from work-related MSD.


Who’s responsible?

The legal duties and obligations in the UK fall with the employers to manage all risks that their employees are exposed to.

According to the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, employers must:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling within reason. Either by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load, or by automating or mechanising the process.
  • Asses the risk of injury that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury from those operations within reason. Where possible provide mechanical assistance e.g a trolley or hoist.

Where you cannot reduce the risk of injury, explore changes to the task, the load and the working environment. Medical and scientific knowledge both stress the importance of an ergonomic approach to manual handling.

However, all the responsibility shouldn’t fall entirely to the employers. A little common sense can go a long way and employees should try and protect themselves from injury.

As an employee you should:

  • Not lift or attempt to move objects that are too heavy or unmanageable
  • Follow systems in place for safety reasons
  • Use equipment provided safely and properly
  • Co-operate with employers on health and safety matters
  • Inform and report any hazardous handling activities
  • Take care to not put yourself or others at risk


Assessing manual handling risks


Key factors to consider when assessing manual handling risks is Task, Individual, Load and Environment.

Does the activity involve twisting, stooping, bending, excessive travel, pushing, pulling or precise positioning of the load? Sudden movement, inadequate rest or recovery periods, team handling or seated work?

Does the individual require unusual strength or height for the activity? Are they pregnant, disabled or suffering from a health problem? Is specialist knowledge or training required?

Is the load heavy, unwieldy, difficult to grasp, sharp, hot, cold, difficult to grip? Are the contents likely to move or shift?

Are there space constraints, uneven, slippery or unstable floors, variations in floor levels? Extremely hot, cold or humid conditions? Poor lighting, poor ventilation, gusty winds? Clothing or Personal Protective Equipment that restricts movement?


Tips to follow during manual handling

We have provided some general tips that everyone should follow when attempting to carry out manual handling:

  • Test the weight of the object before you attempt to lift it by pushing it or shifting it
  • Use a handling aid or another person to lift heavier objects
  • Make sure your route is clear of obstructions
  • Follow the principles of lifting: stand as close to the load as possible, get your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and keep an upright posture. Grasp the load firmly and hold it as close to the body as possible. Use your legs to lift.
  • Keep your elbows tucked into your body when carrying the load
  • Avoid twisting or awkward body movements that might cause strain
  • Do not lift the load above eye level
  • Make sure you can clearly see your route


We hope this article helped you understand more about manual handling!

If you are still concerned or need any further advice or training, get in touch with us here or fill out the form below.