Last edited 23 Aug 2017

Manual handling

Manual handling refers to the use of individual’s physicality to lift, lower, carry, push or pull an item.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR), amended in 2002, 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’.

Incorrect manual handling is a common factor in work-related injuries. This can be because of:

  • The weight of the item being handled.
  • The repetitive nature of the movement
  • The distance the item is being moved
  • Where the item is being moved to and from.
  • The posture of the individual. Any twisting, bending, stretching or other awkward position may exacerbate problems.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or damage caused to joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back, often as a result of manual handling. Statistics have shown that MSDs account for more than a third of all work-related illnesses reported each year.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations place obligations on employers to manage the risks of manual handling to their employees, including:

  • Avoiding hazardous manual handling operations as far as is reasonably practicable. This may involve the use of alternative equipment such as a forklift truck, pallet jack, trolley or other lifting device.
  • Assessing the risk of injury from manual handling operations that cannot be carried out with alternative equipment.
  • Reducing the risk as far as is reasonably practicable, perhaps by altering the load, changing the working environment, and so on.

Employees have a duty to:

If it is necessary and safe to manually lift items, it is important to:

  • Get a good hold.
  • Start in a good posture.
  • Keep the load close to the waist.
  • Not flex the back any further while lifting.
  • Avoid twisting the back or leaning sideways.
  • Keep the head up.
  • Move smoothly.
  • Not lift or handle more than can be easily managed.

Manual handling activities can be assessed and graded according to risk using a Manual handling assessment chart.

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