Manual Handling

Manual Handling operations may result in injury, accidents and ill health. In fact these work activities account for approximately 25% of all reported work related injuries every year and it is estimated that many more occur which are never reported. So what is manual handling and how does it relate to your business?

Advice on manual handling can also be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Manual handling is defined as:

  • any transporting or supporting of a load by hand or bodily force

This includes:

  • Lifting
  • Putting down
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Carrying
  • Moving

In addition the bodily force does not have to be applied directly on to the object. Instead it may be made by way of a rope or a lever, etc. Consequently manual handling can take many forms, for example:

  • A nurse moving a patient from a bed
  • A secretary carrying a box of photocopying paper
  • A chef lifting a heavy pot of soup or large meat joint
  • Manual handling carried out by employees may result in injury whether it is immediate or as a build up over a long period of time, such as acute or chronic.

For example:

  • Fractures
  • Damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons
  • Slipped discs
  • Trapped nerves
  • Abrasions and cuts
  • Hernias

As a result of these injuries many hours may be lost due to employees being on sick leave.

Legislation and Guidance

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations are aimed at helping employers and the self-employed to reduce the risk of these injuries and work related accidents occurring by effectively managing the movement of staff, equipment and objects.

As far as reasonably practicable the employer must remove any need for their employees to undertake any form of manual handling where there is a risk of them being injured.

The most fundamental requirement is to avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Automation, redesigning the task to avoid manual movement of the load and mechanisation have to be considered if there is a risk of injury and a manual handling operation is involved.

If risk remains a suitable and sufficient assessment of the operation has to be made and that risk has to be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable, preferably involving mechanical assistance.

Risk Assessment

First and foremost the need to carry out manual handling should be assessed.

If it is not required then the activity should be stopped.

A suitable and sufficient risk assessment is required when hazardous manual handling is unavoidable. In assessing the risks associated with manual handling it is necessary to look at the individual carrying out the work activity, fit the job to the person, rather than the person to the job.

The assessment should identify where the risks lie and suggest an appropriate range of ideas for reducing the potential for injury. There are a number of ways in which you can reduce and minimise the risk from manual handling:

  • Use mechanical assistance such as hoists, lifting cradles, conveyors etc
  • Team handling, co-ordinated lifting, improving work routines
  • Adapting the load by reducing the weight, size of the load to make it easier to grasp, handle, lift
  • Adapting the work environment by improving the floor condition, improve lighting
  • Improve the capability of individuals through training

Factors that must be taken into account when making assessments are specified in detail in Schedule 1 of the regulations, the use of which is compulsory (see Appendix 7).

An example of a completed checklist is provided at Appendix 8. Its use will help to highlight the overall level of risk involved and identify how the job may be modified to reduce the risk of injury and make it easier to do. It will be helpful to prioritise the remedial actions needed.

Duty of Employees

In addition to employees general duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations require employees to make full and proper use of any system of work put in place by the employer to reduce the risk of injury during manual handling.


  1. Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (LEGUK)
  2. L 23: Manual Handling - Manual Handling Operations Regulations. Guidance on Regulations (HSE)
  3. HSG 60: Upper Limb Disorders in the Workplace (HSE)
  4. HS(G)115: Manual Handling: Solutions you can handle (HSE)
  5. HSG 119: Manual Handling in Drinks Delivery (HSE)
  6. HSG 196: Moving Food and Drink - Manual Handling Solutions for the Food and Drink Industries (HSE)
  7. INDG 143L: Getting to grips with manual handling. A short guide for employers (HSE)
  8. INDG 171: Upper Limb Disorders - Assessing the Risks (HSE)
  9. INDG 318: Manual Handling Solutions in Woodworking (HSE)