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What are safe manual handling techniques?

schedule 18th June 2019 by Virtual College in Health and Safety Last updated on 18th June 2019

Two workers practising safe manual handling whilst carrying a box

Last year, 21% of all workplace accidents occurred as a result of someone lifting something incorrectly or handling heavy objects in a dangerous way. This means that over 116,550 people were injured because they weren’t properly trained in safe manual handling techniques, and it’s important to note that these injuries can be incredibly serious.

Manual handling covers everything from carrying heavy boxes, right through to pushing a desk across the office floor or rearranging heavy equipment. Manual handling injuries tend to involve the back, the knees or the hips and research shows that manual handling injuries normally lead to about 17 days of time off work.

In most cases, the employer will bear the burden for this lost time and the subsequent cost of hiring in the temporary staff needed to ensure the smooth running of the business.

Want more information on manual handling procedure? Check out our guide here.

The Law

Because the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 specify that it the business owner’s responsibility to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place - and mandate that you do everything you can to reduce the risk of manual handling accidents - injuries related to lifting or carrying heavy loads can also open your business up to potential lawsuits and fines, which can be exorbitant.

In 2017, an engineering firm was fined £20,000 after one of their workers was injured while carrying a heavy steel frame, and while most manual handling accidents don’t result in legal action, it’s always worth taking steps to safeguard your business from similar lawsuits.

Looking for a breakdown of the current legislation? Click here to read our legislation guide.


The best way to prevent manual handling accidents is to teach your workforce safe manual handling techniques. These techniques have been developed by medical professionals, and seek to minimise the risk of harm by:

  • Taking the load off the weakest parts of the body
  • Helping people to manage objects in a way that doesn't strain their joints and muscles
  • Ensuring that people can see where they’re going while they’re carrying a heavy load

According to the NHS, the best way to approach lifting, and handling heavy loads is to:

  • Lift from a stable position, with your hips square to the object and your back straight
  • Keep heavy loads close to your chest, so that your centre of gravity is low
  • Ensure that you have a firm grip on the object before moving
  • Keep your back straight while moving, and move in a straight line
  • Look straight ahead while moving, to avoid bumping into obstacles
  • Place loads down slowly, and rearrange once the weight is off your body

Good manual handling training also teaches staff how to think about lifting heavy loads before they engage with strenuous activity; equipping your employees with the knowledge they need to recognize potentially dangerous loads, and teaching them to avoid lifting if there’s any risk of harm.

Providing your staff with this sort of in-depth training may seem like a lot of work, but it is the best way to ensure that your business complies with the standards set by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, and the best possible way to reduce the risk of accident in the workplace.

If you’re searching for accessible training that covers safe manual handling techniques, you may be interested in our course on Manual Handling for Health and Safety in the Workplace.
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Author: Virtual College

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