Health, Safety & Environment Consultants

What is Manual Handling and How Can We Do it Safely?


Manual handling is a hazard in all businesses. It involves the use of bodily force to move an object. This includes pushing, pulling, lifting, lowering and carrying.

 The HSE reports that manual handling causes over a third of all workplace injuries. The most common of injuries being musculoskeletal disorders (MSD's), which are pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and repetitive strain injuries of various sorts. The Labour Force Survey identified manual handling, lifting and carrying were the prime causative factors in the development of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the period 2009/10 - 2011/12. In that same period, 113,000 back disorder cases were classified as occurring from manual handling. This made up 53% of all back disorder cases for that period. Given the number of workplace injuries manual handling causes, it doesn't just make sense to manage these risks due to the legal requirements, but also due to the financial costs it can cause from loss of man-hours, civil claims and hiring and training of replacement staff.

 So how do we address managing the risk of manual handling in the workplace? Firstly, wherever possible, manual handling should be avoided in the workplace. Where manual handling cannot be avoided, all manual handling activities should be identified in your business risk assessment, and mitigation measures put in place to avoid injury. Mitigation measures can include the use of equipment to aid manual handling. These include the use of manually operated equipment such as pallet jacks, trolleys and sack barrows, and mechanical handling and lifting equipment such as conveyors, elevators and forklift trucks.

 Next, we should develop procedures for manual handling within the workplace. The procedure should cover the duties of employers and employees, risk assessment requirements, manual handling tasks including any equipment to aid manual handling, training requirements, and designing and planning manual handling tasks. These procedures should be communicated to the workforce and need to be implemented by the business to be effective.

 Finally, all personnel identified as conducting manual handling activities should undergo manual handling training. As well as general manual handling techniques, training should include the use of specific manual handling equipment if required as per the risk assessment and manual handling procedures. It is important that employers never request employees to conduct manual handling without training, and that employees never conduct manual handling if they have not been trained.

 By ensuring employees only conducting manual handling where necessary, have access to manual handling aids and are suitably trained, employers can reduce the risk of manual handling injuries, and financial loss.

 If you need help with managing the risks of manual handling in the workplace, or with any part of your health and safety management system, contact us to find out how we can help you: or 01843 6399711.


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