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Last updated: 22.08.17

Manual Handling Risks and Procedures: An Overview

Why is manual handling so important?

Almost every sort of job will, at some point, involve a task that will has an element of manual handling, whether that’s moving items around a warehouse or lifting boxes of paper in an office. For some people this might be a day-today occurrence, for others it might be something out of the blue, but it’s important to know how to correctly go about manual handling to avoid unnecessary injuries.

Unfortunately, injuries as a result of improper manual handling are more common than you’d think, and often result in time off for recovery which can impact both employer and employee, and in the worst cases can mean permanent injuries and even lawsuits. As a result, it’s very important that both employers and their employees understand what their responsibilities are when it comes to safe manual handling.

By carrying out a thorough risk assessment, followed by choosing the right solution and applying correct technique to manual handling, you can making lifting and carrying safer for any employee involved.

Assessing the Risk

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002, sets out specific points in order to make it clearly how to understand and deal with risk. The Regulations define manual handling as:

"...any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force".

This definition covers a large number of activities which will be encountered in some capacity in practically all workplaces, meaning every workplace should be aware of proper manual handling as a precaution. The Regulations also set out the basic three steps which are designed to reduce risk as much as possible:

  • Avoid manual handling which involves risk if it is practically possible. If it’s not absolutely necessary to perform manual handling, especially if there is an element of risk involved, then it should be delayed until you’re able to ensure it can be performed safely. This is best way of preventing unnecessary injuries.
  • Assess what potential there is for risk and potential injuries when performing manual handling when carried out correctly. Think about the practicality of the task, whether anything could go wrong while it is being carried out, and whether there are any available means which could make the task easier.
  • Reduce any possibility of injury through practical means when carrying out the manual handling. Being aware of the risks at all times and minimising areas where issues might arise is a priority. Using proper technique to lift and carry items is one of the most straightforward ways to do this.

Note: If tasks are performed regularly, then documented manual handling procedures are very useful indeed, and is mandated by law within some industries and applications. Detailing the specifics of the manual handling operation is crucial, covering the aspects of how you assessed and reduced any elements of risk. Considering and logging these details is an extremely helpful way of preventing injury and also sets a standard should there be a legal dispute.

Lifting Techniques

Lifting objects incorrectly is the main cause of manual handling injuries in the workplace, and they very frequently occur as a result of poor lifting technique. Below are some steps that you can follow to make lifting objects safer for everyone:

  • Ensure that you’ve done everything you can to reduce risk as described in points two and three of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.
  • Stand with your legs slightly apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other beside the object you’re about to pick up. This will help ensure you keep your balance.
  • Move to get hold of the object, bearing in mind that the closer it is to your body and the more contact you have with it, the easier the task will be.
  • Begin to lift the object without excessively bending your back, knees or hips. Most people know not to lift with their backs, but it’s also important not to put too much strain on the knees by lifting from a squat.
  • Keep whatever you are holding as close to your body as possible as you carry it.
  • Avoid twisting the body as you walk - it is far safer to move using your feet than your waist.
  • While walking, make sure that your head stays straight forward - this will reduce strain on you neck, as well as ensuring you don’t trip.
  • When putting something heavy down, move it into place after you’ve done so, rather than trying to handle it into place.

For further information on making manual handling safer in the workplace, our Moving & Handling Objects and People may be helpful. Click here to find out more.

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