Safe Manual Handling

Additional material to support your information poster, with a quiz to test your knowledge.

Manual handling relates to the moving of items either by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling. The weight of the item is an important factor, but many other factors can create a risk of injury, for example the number of times you have to pick up or carry an item, the distance you are carrying it, where you are picking it up from or putting it down (picking it up from the floor, putting it on a shelf above shoulder level) and any twisting, bending, stretching or other awkward posture you may adopt while doing a task. Incorrect Manual Handling Techniques can lead to Manual handling injuries, which are part of a wider group of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The term ‘musculoskeletal disorders’ covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.

Safe Manual Handling Techniques

Reliance Medical Manual Handling Guidance

A. CONSIDER THE TASK AND THE LOAD BEFORE YOU BEGIN THE LIFT

Plan the lift. Consider the task: 

Can a lifting aid be used?
Can someone help you lift it?
Can you reduce the amount of twisting or stooping?
Can you push, rather than pull?
Will help be needed with the load? 

Consider the load:

Can the load be made lighter?
Is the load an awkward shape?
Can the load be made easier to grasp?

Consider the environment:

Have you fully planned the route you are taking?
Are there any doors that need to be opened for you?
Are there any obstructions or slippery floors?
Have you planned for rest stops if needed?
Are there any variations in the floor level?
Are the lighting conditions acceptable?

Reliance Medical Manual Handling Guidance

2. ADOPT A STABLE POSITION

Your feet should be apart, with one leg placed slightly forward to maintain balance (alongside the load, if it is on the ground). You should be prepared to move your feet during the lift to maintain stability. Ensure that you are wearing suitable footwear and clothing.

Reliance Medical Manual Handling Guidance

3. GET A GRIP

Get a good grip on the object, using handles if the article has them. Where possible, the load should be hugged as close to the body as possible. This may be better than gripping it tightly with your hands only. Keep in mind that the load can slip if you are not holding it properly.

4. GOOD POSTURE

Bend your knees, keeping your shoulders straight, with your spine and knees in normal alignment. At the start of the lift, slight bending of the back, hips, and knees is preferable to fully flexing the back (stooping), or fully flexing the hips and knees (squatting).

5. LIFT THE LOAD – AVOID TWISTING OR LEANING SIDEWAYS

When you are lifting the load, avoid twisting and leaning, especially if your back is bent. Shoulders should be kept level and facing in the same direction as the hips. Turning by moving your feet is better than twisting and lifting at the same time. This can happen if the legs begin to straighten before starting to raise the load. If a close approach to the load is not possible, try to slide it towards your body before attempting to lift it.

6. KEEP THE LOAD AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO THE WAIST

Keep the load close to the body for as long as possible while carrying. The heaviest side of the load should be held closest to the body.

NEVER LIFT MORE THAN YOU CAN SAFELY MANAGE!

The law does not identify a maximum weight limit but does provide guidelines; these are 25kg for men and 16kg for women when the load is at waist height. It places duties on employers to manage or control risk; measures to take to meet this duty will vary depending on the circumstances of the task.

Things to be considered will include the individual carrying out the handling operation, e.g. strength, fitness, underlying medical conditions, the weight to be lifted and distance to be carried, the nature of the load or the postures to be adopted or the availability of equipment to facilitate the lift.

Employee’s Responsibilities

Reliance Medical Health & Safety at Work Guidance Poster

Employees should:

Follow systems of work in place for their safety;

Use equipment provided for their safety properly;

Co-operate with their employer on health and safety matters;

Inform their employer if they identify hazardous handling activities;

Take care to make sure their activities do not put others at risk.

Training

Employees need to be trained in the risks of Manual Handling, and how to minimise the risks. Training should cover:

Manual handling risk factors and how injuries can occur;

How to carry out safe manual handling, including good handling techniques;

Appropriate systems of work for the individual’s tasks and environment;

Use of mechanical aids, if applicable;

Practical work to allow the trainer to identify and put right anything the trainee is not doing safely.

Employer’s Responsibilities

Reliance Medical Computer User Health & Safety Workplace Poster

The Regulations require employers to:

AVOID THE NEED FOR MANUAL HANDLING, SO FAR IS AS REASONABLY PRACTICABLE

Consider the layout of your workplace: do large workpieces really need to be moved, or can the activity (e.g. wrapping or machining), be done safely where the item already is?
Additionally, consider having raw materials be delivered directly to their point of use.
Some aspects of Manual Handling could be avoided by utilising mechanisation methods and handling aids, such as a pallet truck, conveyor or a lift truck.

ASSESS THE RISKS OF INJURY FROM ANY MANUAL HANDLING THAT CAN’T BE AVOIDED

As part of managing the Health and Safety of your business, by law, you must control the risks in the workplace by conducting a Risk Assessment.  You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will help you decide whether you should be doing more. Think about how accidents could happen and concentrate on the risks – those that are most likely and which will cause the most harm. Think about your workplace activities that could injure your employees. You could also ask your employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks. Also consider that some workers may have particular requirements, for example, new workers, people with disabilities, or temporary workers may be at particular risk. Having identified the hazards, you then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur. Risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate ALL risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly. Generally, you need to do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm.

RECORD YOUR FINDINGS AND IMPLEMENT CONTROL MEASURES TO REDUCE RISK OF INJURY

Make a record of your findings – the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what you have in place to control the risks. Any record produced should be simple and focused on controls. If you have fewer than five employees, you do not have to write anything down, but, it is useful to do this so you can review it at a later date, for example, if something changes. If you have five or more employees, you are required by law to write it down. Few workplaces stay the same, so it makes sense to review what you are doing regularly.

PROBLEMS TO LOOK FOR WHEN ASSESSING RISK

POTENTIAL WAYS TO REDUCE INJURY

Assess the tasks, consider if they involve:
Holding load away from the body?
Twisting, stooping or reaching upwards? 
Long carrying distances?
Strenuous pushing or pulling?
Repetitive handling?
Insufficient rest or recovery time?

Can you make the task easier by: 
Using a lifting aid? 
Improving workplace layout to improve efficiency? 
Reducing the amount of twisting and stooping? 
Avoiding lifting from floor level or above shoulder height? 
Reducing carrying distances? 
Pushing rather than pulling?

Assess the individual loads, are they:
Heavy or bulky?
Difficult to grasp?
Unstable?
Harmful, e.g. sharp or hot?
Awkwardly stacked?
Too large for the handler to see over?

Can you make the load:
Lighter or less bulky?
Easier to grasp?
More stable?
Evenly stacked?
If the load comes from elsewhere, have you asked the supplier to help, e.g. by providing handles or smaller packages?

Assess the working environment of employees. Are there:
Restrictions on posture?
Bumpy, obstructed or slippery floors?
Variations in floor levels?
Hot/cold/humid conditions?
Gusts of wind or other strong air movements?
Poor lighting conditions?
Restrictions on movements from clothes or Personal Protective Equipment?

Can you improve the environment by:
Removing obstructions to free movement?
Providing better flooring?
Avoiding steps and steep ramps?
Preventing extremes of hot and cold?
Improving lighting?
Providing protective clothing or PPE that is less restrictive?
Ensuring your employees’ clothing and footwear is suitable for their work?

Assess employee strengths/weaknesses/abilities when assigning tasks:
Require unusual capability, e.g. above average strength or agility?
Endanger those with a health problem or learning/ physical disability?
Endanger pregnant women?
Call for special information or training?

Can you help by:
Paying particular attention to those who are physically weaker?
Ensuring pregnant workers aren’t undertaking unsuitable tasks?
Giving your employees more information on the tasks they are likely to face?
Providing further training?

 Assess work organisation factors:
Is the work repetitive or boring?
Is work machine or system-paced?
Do workers feel the demands of the work are excessive?
Have workers little control of the work and working methods?
Is there poor communication between managers and employees?

Can you:
Change tasks to reduce the monotony?
Make workloads and deadlines more achievable?
Encourage good communication and teamwork?
Involve workers in decisions?
Provide better training and information?

Information based on the Health and Safety Executives Manual Handling Guide 

Safe Manual Handling Quiz

A short quiz to test your knowledge of Manual Handling.

All information is for guidance only and correct at time of publication.