Manual Handling

By Chris Wagstaff.
22 Aug 2019

As an employer, you have a legal duty of care for your employees. You must protect your workers from the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling in the workplace.

Manual handling is responsible for over a third of all workplace injuries. It’s common in many business environments and still an issue many managers are uncertain about.

So, in this guide, we look at its purpose in your business and how you can regulate it for health & safety reasons.

What is manual handling in the workplace?

The term is a catch-all for activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and carrying.

A definition, based on health & safety legislation, is:

“Any transporting or support of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force.”

There are serious implications for you if an employee sustains an injury while performing any of the above activities.

What injuries can occur because of manual handling?

As it’s such a common practice, it’s perhaps unsurprising that manual handling injuries account for over a third of all workplace injuries. Something as simple as picking up and moving objects comes with a variety of risks.

Here are some of the main ones:

Seven manual handling hazards

  1. Back injuries
  2. Strains and sprains
  3. Hand injuries
  4. Musculoskeletal disorders
  5. Slip, trip and fall injuries
  6. Hernias
  7. Foot injuries

As you can see from this list, manual handling risks range from short-term, minor injuries, to long-term major injuries.

Sometimes, the issues caused by this may overlap into other hazardous areas, such as slips, trips and falls. You should be able to identify both types of hazards by conducting a risk assessment.

If you really want to ensure safe manual handling in your organisation, you’ll need to go beyond a risk assessment. Once you’ve identified the risks, you’ll need to act to mitigate them. The key to this is understanding the law on manual handling…

What is the legislation associated with manual handling?

The main manual handling legislation you should be aware of is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 19992 (MHOR 1992).

But what is the MHOR 1992?

It provides a definition and a clear ranking of measures for dealing with risks.

  • First: Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Second: Assess any hazardous manual handling operations that can’t be avoided.
  • Third: Reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.

You can find a full breakdown of the manual handling regulations on the HSE manual handling page.

However, if you wanted to conduct a risk assessment knowing that it complies with the regulations outlined above, you can do so by downloading a free manual handling risk assessment template here.

Manual handling guidelines

How do you ensure proper safety? Start by avoiding any unnecessary manual handling. If your staff can avoid a task, then they should.

Where it’s unavoidable, you must properly assess the risk, put sensible measures in place, and ensure the individual performing manual handling is aware of the proper technique and the potential risks.

You’ll want an effective but efficient approach. One way to do this is to provide training to your employees, ideally through an external provider, saving you time and energy. 

Practicing the correct lifting technique can make a real difference to the health & safety of your workers. 

Manual handling training

Croner provides a manual handling course led by experts and a good deal of other health & safety training sessions. To find out more about these, speak to one of the training team today on 01455 858 132.

We provide many health & safety training courses, including manual handling. However, if you were just looking for the basics, here they are:

Safe manual handling involves assessing risks and having a good procedure in place. Before any lifting activity, always consider:

  • The individual’s capability.
  • The nature of the load.
  • Environmental conditions.
  • Work organisation.

Then, when an individual has to lift something, they should:

  • Reduce the amount of twisting, stooping, and reaching.
  • Avoid lifting from floor level or above shoulder height.
  • Adjust storage areas to minimise the need to carry out such movements.
  • Consider how to minimise carrying distances.

Good manual handling techniques

Here are a few top tips on ensuring good technique and minimising risk:

  • Remove obstruction from the route prior to lifting.
  • Plan a rest if the lift is long, rest the load midway, not on the floor or on a high shelf.
  • Keep the load close to the waist.
  • Keep the load close to your body.
  • Hold the heaviest side next to your body.
  • Adopt a stable position and keep your feet apart.
  • Keep your head up when handling.

What about the use of manual handling equipment?

Depending on the load and the workplace, sometimes equipment will need to be utilised when moving objects. If this is the case for you, then you should still abide by MHOR 1992 and make sure you’ve suitably addressed all risks.

However, you should also refer to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER).

Find out more about how work equipment safety legislation applies to your business here.

Using a manual handling policy

Having a policy on manual handling is great for ensuring all employees are aware of the risks and responsibilities within your workplace.

Your policy should highlight the risk of manual handling injuries and who manages training and health & safety risks within your business.

Whether you provide training in-house or externally, provide as much detail as possible on the training and how and when employees can access it.

Expert support on manual handling

Manual handling is a common issue that most workplaces have to contend with. At its core, the issue is simple but very easy to get wrong. It is essential you correctly manage health and safety at work.

With Croner’s help, you can ensure your staff are properly trained, avoid accidents before they occur, and protect your business from risk.

So, for answers to all your manual handling questions, support with employee training, or advice on any other health & safety topic, speak to one of our experts today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Chris Wagstaff

Chris is the Director of Health and Safety at Croner. Chris is also CMIOSH accredited, an IOSH Mentor and HSE People Champion and has over 20 years working in Health & Safety.


Fiona Burns

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