A Top Tips guide to manual handling

17 June, 2013

How many of your employees regularly move heavy objects such as food supplies, bottle crates or rubbish bags on a daily basis?

Typically, you and your staff will think nothing of it, looking at it as just a part of your daily duties, but many manual handling injuries are the result of poor practices being followed over lengthy periods of time and not from a 'one-off' manual handling activity.

In some cases, poor manual handling can lead to permanent disability and physical impairment - so please pay attention, the stakes are high.

The Law

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 apply to all manual handling activities carried out by employees whilst at work. As an employer, it's your responsibility to undertake a risk assessment of all manual handling activities and determine a hierarchy of risk control in order to minimise injury and ill-health risks to your staff. Below are our top tips for ensuring safety at your business.

Why is manual handling an issue under health & safety law?

Manual handling is not only about lifting but also lowering items, pushing items, pulling items, carrying items and repeated movement of items.

Note: Back injury is not the only type of injury from manual handling. Injuries are reported concerning:

  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Lacerations
  • Fractures

Clearly costs to business due to injury are huge, comprising sick pay, the cost of loss of skilled employee, replacement/temporary staff, civil claims, criminal prosecution and increased insurance premiums.

Figures from the HSE report that musculo-skeletal disorder cases in 2011/12 represented 439,000 out of a total 1,073,000 reported work-related illnesses*.

Costs for manual handling injuries have been estimated at £billion in lost production.

What does the law require regarding manual handling?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require employers to:

  • Avoid... the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Assess... the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can't be avoided
  • Reduce... the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

What are the rules for good manual handling?

Remember the following for safe manual handling:

  • Lift only within your capability
  • Two people are better than one
  • Frequent lifting of smaller weights is better than a one-off lift of a heavy load
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight
  • Use your thighs
  • Get a good grip
  • Hold the heaviest part of the load closest to the body
  • Rest the load mid-way if possible

Perry Scott Nash's Top Tips for Manual Handling:

Review all manual handling tasks and mechanise whatever you can and...

  • Avoid manual handling tasks wherever possible
  • Remember that manual handling covers pushing and pulling as well as lifting
  • Remember there is no legal maximum weight that people can lift - it depends on their capability
  • Complete Risk Assessments for all manual handling tasks. Remember to consider:
  • The task
  • The environment
  • The load
  • The individual
  • Share information with employees and others - put weight loads on boxes and packages
  • Train employees in good manual handling practices
  • Team lifting is an acceptable way of organising lifting but it does need to have proper planning
  • Where mechanical aids are used ensure that they are regularly maintained and serviced and have any statutory inspections e.g. for lifting aids/hoists.


For more information on this or other matters relating to health and safety in the workplace Contact Us.

Share this via

Back to News

Search by category

About Acoura

We offer specialist services and solutions aimed at protecting businesses who operate across the food and drink supply chain.


Whether you're a farmer, fisherman, food processor or publican we can reduce your compliance burden, protect your brand and help your business grow. 

Read more