Manual Handling

Every employee has a responsibility to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others

The Workplace Regulations 1992 (as amended by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 2004) define manual handling as any operation where a load is moved by bodily force; this includes picking up, putting down, carrying, supporting and pushing.

Every employee has a responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their activities, to make proper use of equipment provided for safety and to co-operate with their employer on health and safety matters.

The Regulations are applicable to a wide range of manual handling activities involving the transportation or supporting of a load, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving.

1.  Stop and think

Plan the lift. Where is the load to be placed? Use appropriate handling aids if possible. Do you need help with the load? Remove obstructions such as discarded wrapping material. For a long lift, such as floor to shoulder height, consider resting the load mid-way on a table or bench in order to change grip.

2.  Position the feet

Adopt a stable position with feet apart and one leg slightly forward to maintain balance.

3.  Adopt a good posture

When lifting from a low level, bend the knees. But do not kneel or overflex the knees. A slight bend of back, hips and knees is preferable to stooping or squatting, lean forward a little over the load if necessary to get a good grip. Keep the shoulders level and facing in the same direction as the hips.

4. Get a firm grip

Try to keep the arms within the boundary formed by the legs. The best position and type of grip depends on the circumstances and individual preference but it must be secure. A hook grip is less tiring than trying to keep the fingers straight. If you need to vary the grip as the lift proceeds, do it as smoothly as possible.

5. Keep close to the load

Keep the load close to the trunk for as long as possible. Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the trunk. If a close approach to the load is not possible, slide it towards you before trying to lift.

6. Don’t jerk

Lift smoothly, keeping control of the load.

7. Move the feet

Don’t twist the trunk when turning to the side.

8. Keep your head up

When handling, look ahead, not down at the load (once it has been held securely).

9. Put down, the adjust

If precise positioning of the load is necessary, put it down first, then slide into the desired position.

10. Be aware

A worker may be at risk if he or she:

  • Is physically to carry out the task.
  • Is wearing unsuitable clothing, footwear or otherpersonal effects.
  • Does not have adequate or appropriate training or knowledge.

11. Mechanical aids

Provide mechanical aids if it’s reasonably practical to do so and if it will reduce or eliminate risks. Always consider using mechanical aids as they can improve productivity as well as safety. Even something as simple as a sack truck can make a big improvement.

12. Frequent lifting and lowering

The guideline weights shown below are for infrequent operations – up to about 30 operations per hour where the pace is not forced, adequate pauses to rest or use different muscles are possible, and the load is not supported for any length of time. Weights should be reduced if the operation is repeated more often. As a rough guide, reduce the weights by 30% if the operation is repeated once or twice per minute; by 50% where the operation is repeated five to eight times per minute; and by 80% where the operation is repeated more than 12 times per minute.

13. Training

Training should be provided so that safe manual handling and good handling techniques are used.

14. Individual capability

For the working population the guideline weights will give reasonable protection to nearly all men and between one-half and two-thirds of women. To provide similar protection to nearly all working women, reduce the guideline weights by about a third. Any operation involving more than twice the guideline weights should be rigorously assessed, even for very fit, well-trained individuals working under favourable conditions.

This information is for guidance only and is a brief summary of the current rules. It should be read in conjunction with the current legislation. Whilst the information provided will assist in reducing the risk of injury, there is no such thing as a completely safe lift. It is up to the individual to re-assess each situation before carrying out any procedure. For more information, download the HSE Guide.