Lifting and carrying (manual handling)

Manual handling at work, such as lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling or carrying, is a major cause of injury and ill health. In the University, manual handling injuries account for the majority of RIDDOR reportable injuries.

Manual Handling Standard

The University's Manual Handling Standard forms part of the Health and Safety PolicyHealth and Safety PolicyHealth and Safety Policy for controlling risks from manual handling and complies with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (.pdf). The Regulations require the University to take action if hazardous manual handling is carried out and to reduce the risk of injury by:

  1. avoiding hazardous manual handling so far as is reasonably practicable
  2. making a suitable and sufficient assessment of any hazardous manual handling that cannot be avoided
  3. reducing the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable

Taking care of your back

Actions and responsibilities

In accordance with the Health and Safety PolicyHealth and Safety PolicyHealth and Safety Policy all staff and students are required to comply with the Manual Handling Standard.

Heads of departments/sections

You will need to have effective systems in place for ensuring the risks from manual handling by staff are controlled.

Line managers and supervisors

You will need to ensure the manual handling risk assessments and risk control measures are implemented in your area of responsibility and ensure that staff follow them.

Staff responsible for education or research

You will need to ensure manual handling risks are assessed and departmental procedures implemented.

Risk assessment

The following steps and flowchart (.pdf) will help you to carry out a suitable and sufficient manual handling risk assessment. 

  1. First, think about the routine and the non-routine manual handling operations that may be carried out in your area. Speak to people and gather information on the range of activities carried out to get an understanding of the possible problems. You should have in your general risk assessments already identified the manual handling that may cause injury.
  2. The next step is deciding whether the manual handling activity can be eliminated or avoided. If it can be eliminated or avoided record that on your risk assessment.
  3. If it cannot be avoided or eliminated, consider whether it can be automated or mechanised, bearing in mind that this may introduce other risks.
  4. If it cannot be eliminated, avoided, automated or mechanised you will need risk assess the activity and decide how detailed your manual handling risk assessments should be. You can use our simple filter (.pdf) to help you identify whether the manual handling activity is low or high risk. If it is within the filter values the activity is probably low risk and the findings can be recorded in your general risk assessment. If it is outside the filter values the activity will need a manual handling risk assessment because it is likely to be high risk.

Who carries out risk assessments

Everyone will be able to use the simple filter (.pdf) to identify low risk or high risk manual handling activities. It is recommended that people who record the low risk manual handling findings on the general risk assessments will have completed risk assessment training. However, if you have high risk manual handling activities the assessor will need to be competent in using the HSE toolkits and the full assessments. It is recommended that for departments and sections where manual handling forms a significant part of the workload, key departmental staff are trained to assess the high risk activities.

Carrying out a detailed risk assessment

You will need to examine the manual handling activity risks. They are grouped into task, individual, load, environment and other factors (TILEO).

  • Task - this covers how the activity is organised and covers duration, frequency performed, ability to take breaks, the position of the load in space in relation to the person moving it, as well as the position of the person in the workplace carrying it out.
  • Individual capabilities - this covers the ability of the person carrying out the task and personal attributes that may increase the risk of harm. It includes consideration of existing health problems, pregnancy, young workers, level of training and specialist needs.
  • Load - this covers what is moved and the characteristics of the load. Size and weight as well as stability and other hazardous properties.
  • Environment - this covers where the task is carried out and the factors that may increase risk, such as postural constraints, lighting, floor condition, ramps and stairs.
  • Other factors - for example, including the impact of personal protective equipment and clothing.

There are two levels of manual handling assessment:

You may find that for complex tasks more than one detailed manual handling risk assessment is required to take into account the lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling aspects of the activity. Advice and support on manual handling assessment is available from the Health and Safety Team.

Reducing risk

The most effective way to prevent manual handling injuries is to avoid the activity, automate or mechanise the process. Where this is not possible control measures should be put in place to reduce the TILEO hazards so far as is reasonably practicable.

Handling aids such as trolleys can reduce the risk. Trolleys should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are safe to use. Some lifting equipment may need to undergo statutory examination and testingstatutory examination and testingstatutory examination and testing.  In offices an annual inspection is usually sufficient. More frequent inspections may be needed if the equipment is used frequently or in environments where they could become damaged more easily. In addition, users should carry out checks before they use it to ensure the equipment is safe.

Equipment should be marked or tagged with the last date of inspection, who carried it out and the equipment reference as a minimum and tags can be used to record this. A simple sticker containing the information can be used. Equipment that fails the inspection or user check must be marked to indicate that they are not safe to use and taken out of use.

Information, instruction and training

You should ensure people at risk from manual handling receive the appropriate information, instruction and training when they start work or as soon as possible after the need has been identified.

Low-risk activities

For low-risk manual handling activities, the people at risk should read the back safe guidance (.pdf) leaflet and be aware of the findings from the general risk assessment. This should be carried out as part of a health and safety induction.

High-risk activities

In addition to the low-risk training, the people at high risk from manual handling will require 'hands on' or kinetic manual handling training. The kinetic manual handling training is delivered face to face and includes the theory behind safer handling techniques and the health effects of poor handling techniques. The course should contain a practical session where the findings of the detailed risk assessment are communicated to the people at risk. In the practical session trainees should perform the task and handle the loads they work with. It is important to carry out the training in the environment in which they work. If required, individuals with specific requirements may need additional training to ensure their safety.

Refresher training

The aim of refresher training is to update and reinforce manual handling training and safe behaviours. Possible triggers for refresher training are new manual handling activities, significant changes to the risk assessments or new risk assessments, a manual handling accident or when monitoring has shown that people's skills need updating. Contact Health and Safety if you would like more advice on training frequency, how to carry out effective training and support in carrying out full manual handling risk assessments.

Health and Safety training courses

Health and Safety can help you develop and deliver kinetic manual handling training. There are a variety of training aids available to you. The team has a trained manual handing trainer who can assist managers in developing and delivering manual handling training based on their detailed risk assessments. However, it is strongly recommended that in departments and sections where manual handling forms a significant part of the workload, key departmental staff are trained to deliver manual handling and to carry out detailed risk assessments. A benefit of this approach is that action can be taken to address manual handling concerns as part of local supervision.

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