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Top Tips for Manual Handling

According to statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive, a failure to embrace the proper safe manual handling techniques accounts for more than one-third of all workplace-related injuries. The majority of such instances can be reduced significantly if the correct procedures are implemented across your organisation. Here we explore what control measures should be in place to minimise the risk of manual handling injuries in the workplace.


Conduct a Manual Handling Risk Assessment

 This procedure should be carried out by competent person before any potentially dangerous work is carried out. Such an assessment will recognise the following:

  •  Identification of manual handling hazards (e.g. heavy loads or exposure to dangerous equipment)
  • Noting the people who could be at harm and how (e.g. office staff and back pain)
  • Examining any environmental conditions (e.g. lighting or uneven surfaces).
  • Determining the nature of the load which needs to be handled (e.g. bulky loads, uneven weight)
  • Evaluating the risks and deciding on adequate control methods (e.g. manual handling training or split the load into smaller boxes to reduce weight).

 The main intention of this risk assessment is to provide all parties involved with a detailed description of the hazards and risks involved with manual handling activities, along with the control measures implemented across the organisation; ensuring a higher level of in-house safety.

Manual Handling Training & Guidance

 Although employees always have a responsibility to ensure their safety and that of others, employers need to provide suitable and sufficient levels of training, information and guidance. This will often involve on-site training and support designed for the tasks they are expecting to undertake in their own workplace. Employees should always avoid any unnecessary twisting or stooping in order to minimise the chances of a back injury. Supervisors should likewise assess the weight of the load and determine whether it is able to be reasonably carried by a single individual or it is better to be broken down into easily manageable portions. All these steps will help to ensure that workers are fully aware of the potential hazards involved.

Environmental Concerns

 Adopting safe manual handling techniques should also address environmental issues. This is even more relevant when dealing with larger areas such as warehouses or loading docks. Some common recommendations include:

  • Minimising the distance that a load needs to be carried.
  • Adjusting storage areas so that excessive movements are eliminated.
  • Ensuring that employees are not subject to ancillary hazards such as slippery floors or nearby machinery.
  • Ensuring adequate lighting is provided in the workplace, allowing for a clear view of the route.

It is also important to install the proper safety and warning signs so that employees are fully aware of any additional risk factors.

The Use of Mechanical Aids

Assuming that a load is deemed too heavy to be lifted, safe manual handling procedures should involve mechanical aids such as forklifts or pallet trucks where appropriate.

Additional Manual Handling Tips

Workers should be provided with further on-site guidance; especially those who might be new to a specific role. Some common suggestions which can often be presented within an operations manual include:

  • Bending at the knees when lifting heavy objects.
  • Working from a firm and stable foundation.
  • Holding the load close to one's body.
  • Knowing one's personal limitations in terms of weight and physical capabilities.
  • Being familiar with the types of mechanical aids (such as a hand truck) that are available and where they are located.
  • Use the provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves to aid the lift.
  • Plan your route before you start manual handling.

This type of proactive stance will help to decrease the chances of incurring potentially serious injuries. Embracing the correct manual handling procedures will involve both management and employees alike, ensuring all control measures implemented are communicated and reviewed when changes are made that will affect the activity. Supervision and monitoring of activities also needs to incur to ensure that the correct procedures are being followed.  

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