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Last updated: 20.05.22

The Key Principles of Safe Moving and Handling in Social Care

Moving and handling is a critical aspect of day-to-day functioning in a health and social care setting. For employees in this sector, conducting moving and handling tasks safely is an essential part of the role, whether this involves moving equipment and loads or helping to move patients. 

Safe moving and handling ensures the continued health and wellbeing of everyone involved in the moving and handling process and allows staff to remain compliant with laws and regulations surrounding the key principles of safe moving and handling in social care. In this article, we will discuss what moving and handling is, key procedures and principles, the equipment that can be used during its processes and the regulations and the moving and handling risk assessments involved in social care settings.

What is Moving and Handling?

Moving and handling is a regular aspect of health and social care that involves the movement and manual handling of patients and other items or loads. When not performed safely, moving and handling can place those involved at significant risk of serious injury.

Common tasks involving moving or handling include, but are not limited to: 

  • Assisting with washing or bathing a person
  • Assisting with the movement of a person to the bathroom
  • Assisting a person in and out of bed 
  • Assisting a person to walk, sit or stand
  • Lifting and carrying objects, laundry and cleaning products or supplies

Full training is required before carrying out moving and handling in health and social care to ensure the safety of staff members and patients is maintained at all times. Often, practical training sessions and assessments are carried out to measure whether a person is competent enough to engage in safe moving and handling.

Often, serious moving and handling tasks involve special lifting equipment that makes the process safer and less strenuous. Ensuring equipment is maintained correctly is an important aspect of safe moving and handling, as without fully functioning equipment, tasks cannot be carried out safely and effectively, increasing the risk of injuries.

What are the Principles of Safe Moving and Handling in Social Care?

The principles of safe moving and handling refer to the optimum ways to handle and move patients and loads in line with national guidelines. We explain each of these in more detail below.

Assessing The Situation

Staff must assess and take into consideration the following before approaching a moving and handling task:

  • The environment in which moving and handling will take place
  • Whether the handler is capable enough to perform the task, taking into account age, health, and size
  • What is the nature of the load - is it a person or is it an inanimate object

After considering each of these, you can proceed with a moving and handling task.

Planning

Before carrying out the moving or handling of a patient, it is important to assess the individual that will be moved or handled to realise the best way to meet their specific needs and circumstances, and to identify any potential risks that could cause complications during the process. 

After this, staff members can devise the best course of action and precautionary measures to take to ensure the person is moved as safely as possible.

There are several other factors to consider when planning a moving or handling task, including:

  • The weight of the load being lifted and whether the people involved in moving and handling can cope with this, considering the distance of movement required
  • The space available for the movement to be successfully carried out
  • The equipment being used and its suitability for carrying out the moving and handling task
  • The techniques and practices being used to ensure that those doing the moving and handling are safe

Prepare

Once plans are in place for the moving and handling procedure, the next course of action should be to ensure that the route and process for moving and handling are as smooth as possible. Minimising distance and removing any potential obstacles or obstructions from the route can minimise the risk of injury for both parties involved.

Dressing appropriately - by wearing appropriate footwear such as flat, grippy shoes with covered toes and loose clothing for moveability - will also ensure that the moving and handling process will run smoothly. Removing any articles of jewellery that could potentially get caught is also an important procedure to prepare for moving and handling.

What are Moving and Handling Procedures?

There are a number of procedures that should be followed during the moving and handling process. These are:

  • Gain a secure, tight grip

The handler should make sure that their grip is tight and secure when handling a load, but must also ensure that this grip remains comfortable for the patient being handled. Communicating prior to the procedure should be carried out to ensure that the patient will not be uncomfortable and know what to say if they are.

  • Position the feet correctly

Before moving and handling a patient, the handler should ensure that feet are positioned comfortably, about shoulder-width apart, to provide a wide base to support and stabilise them during the task.

  • Keep a good posture throughout

By maintaining an upright posture and position when moving and handling, the joints and muscles in the back are less strained and the natural curvature and alignment of the spine can be maintained. This eliminates any excess stress on muscles, joints and bones in the back when combined with bracing the abdominal muscles to support the spine, and avoids any twisting that could cause musculoskeletal damage.

  • Hold the load close

Positioning the load as close to the body as possible will minimise any strain or stress placed on the lumbar spine during the procedure, and therefore reduce the risk of muscular or skeletal problems. Keeping the head upright and neck straight whilst performing these actions will also help reduce the likelihood of any injury during the procedure.

What Types of Moving and Handling Equipment Are There?

There is a range of different types of moving and handling equipment that is specially designed for the needs of the care service users and the tasks they carry out to transfer their patients from place to place.

Prior to moving and handling, the equipment chosen to assist in the moving and handling process should be selected in line with the specific needs of the user and also take into consideration the safety of the patient involved. Examples of different moving and handling equipment that are most commonly used include: 

  • Wheelchairs
  • Hoists: Used to raise individuals for relocation
  • Handling Belts: To assist individuals who can support their own weight
  • Walking aids
  • Slide sheets
  • Bed levers

What is the Legislation Related to Moving and Handling?

There are a number of pieces of official legislation that relate to moving and handling. In the UK, these include:

The purpose of these legislative documents is to reduce any risk related to moving and handling for both the service user and staff involved.

What is a Moving and Handling Risk Assessment?

Moving and handling risk assessments are put in place as a means of identifying where risks may arise whilst moving and handling and how workers can go about managing them as a means of preventing negative outcomes during the process.

Both general and individual risk assessments are important to complete before any moving and handling process. 

General risk assessments help achieve the best outcome for everyone involved, taking into account employee safety alongside the safety, the needs and rights of the care receivers alongside general health and safety issues to best achieve a safe and secure process of execution. Individual risk assessments on the other hand take a person-centred approach, acknowledging the patient’s wants and needs whilst also considering their families in the decisions being made for their care and their moving and handling processes.

Details of the safety, equipment used and the needs regarding moving and handling can all be discussed in greater detail to identify areas where the care receiver can be independent, may require more assistance, arrangements for reducing or eliminating the risk of injury and who may be involved in the moving and handling processes. It must be acknowledged that an individual's needs may change on a day-to-day basis, and staff should bear this in mind and consider how this may impact the moving and handling practices and processes in the future.

Risk assessments should also be reviewed regularly or whenever any circumstances involving the patient or staff change. This allows for the continuous assessment of whether the moving and handling procedure used is safe for everyone involved.

FAQs

What considerations have to be made when moving and handling patients?

Before staff engage in any moving or handling task, they must first consider the potential risks and components involved in the process prior to its execution. 

By considering the basic principles of moving and handling, assessing potential risks and capabilities of staff members, whilst also planning the execution of the task and eliminating any risks identified, the likelihood of injury is minimised.

What is the moving and handling policy? 

In health and social care environments, policies are usually in place for the moving and handling process to help staff safely move patients and prioritise their needs as best as possible. 

Key components of moving and handling policies will acknowledge an effort and active commitment to manage and minimise risks that could potentially cause harm to the patient or staff members involved in the moving and handling process. Training and risk assessments that are in place will also be discussed, along with details of the active maintenance and use of handling equipment and where staff can report any moving and handling related injuries.

Why is moving and handling in care important?

People in care who require assistance, many of which are affected by illness and injury, often require moving and handling and rely on those who can do this safely without inflicting any accidental harm or injury. This movement is not only important for necessary tasks such as going to the bathroom and getting into bed, but also gives those in care more freedom and allows them to experience a variety of things that they otherwise would not be able to if stuck in one place or position.

By following the correct safety procedures, patients remain comfortable and avoid any injury whilst being moved and handled, whilst workers can ensure that they don’t cause any harm to themselves in the process.

Summary

Prioritising our own health and safety as well as the health and safety of others is of the utmost importance, particularly whilst in the workplace. Learning about moving and handling procedures, alongside the risks, assessments and policy involved in these tasks, can ensure that the well-being of staff and patients are equally prioritised in the future. 

If you’d like to learn more about moving and handling, our Statutory & Mandatory Training: Moving & Handling (Clinical) course is designed to help anyone in a clinical healthcare role with meeting the mandatory training requirements for moving and handling. The ‘Statutory & Mandatory Training: Moving & Handling (Non-Clinical) course is an equally suitable non-clinical alternative to the above, which is also CPD certified.

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