Manual Handling Awareness

Manual Handling is…

“…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force”. This is in accordance to the HSE Gov.

Manual handling awareness is simply having a basic understanding / concept of the product, environment and limitations of the peoples involved in the task at hand. It is about judging each individual situation through duties such as risk assessments to ensure the job is done in a timely yet professional and safe manner. Just by undertaking simple practices such as this, you are already significantly reducing the chance of injury to your employees or anyone else who may be involved, why is this important? because safety is paramount.

According to HSE GOV, in the UK during 2017 a staggering 22% of employee injuries were due to manual handling errors in one way or another. As a total that was just shy of 134,000 individual cases! So the question remains, what can be done to lower this statistic and prevent these occurrences from firstly rising, but overall prevent them happening in the first place?
The first and possibly most important question to be asked is, does the load require manual handling at all or can mechanical products specifically designed to assist with these jobs be used? For example, a pallet truck is used to lift and locate fully loaded pallets. They should be a tested, maintained and safe product to aid manual handling and are so popular that it would be unheard of to see anyone trying to lift a pallet by hand.

Other manual handling aids include Sack Trucks, a simple two wheel hand truck designed to carry various capacities dependent on brand and specification. Aluminium styles are generally considered a popular option. Generally more expensive however they are lighter as a product, have higher load capacities and can be very durable. Designed well they can be the ultimate go to product within many logistical industries. Other handling assists include conveyors, hoists, forklifts, Skates / Jacks and Skoots moving systems There are countless devices to help move product without the need for manual handling. It is about assessing and selecting the right equipment for each job and not avoiding them purely to decrease the time it takes to complete a task.

Performing a risk assessment is crucial to making a task safe. It is effectively a pre written guideline which includes pre task checks to be carried out and what must be done throughout the task for it to remain safe. Some examples are shown below.

• Check the pathway is clear from current to desired location of the product
• Ensure all relevant PPE is work, Gloves, high visibility jacket, safety glasses, etc.
• Is there a first aid kit close by?
• How many personnel are required to complete the task?

The above are examples but there is much more to consider when completing a risk assessment. Overall a risk assessment can turn into your guide for that particular task and if written correctly it can become part of a companies injury prevention programme.

If mechanical assists cannot be used then, as part of the risk assessment you could look to list ways the manual handling can be made safer. Has the personnel performing the task been fully trained on a manual handling course prior to undertaking the task? Therefore do they know the recommended way to lift product? Can the load be lightened? Although this may increase the trips made to the desired destination it will make the job safer and again reduce risk of injury. If product is located at height can this be reviewed for future work? Storing product you know will have to be manually moved should be at the correct height to prevent employees straining themselves. Is there any adjustments that can be made to flooring / lighting? Although considered smaller factors this is proven to have an impact on prevention of injury.

There is no such thing as a policy to say you cannot lift product at all, only guidelines. This can make it difficult for employers to enforce certain rules that they may want to implement surrounding manual handling. According to the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 manual handling should be limited and only used when mechanical aids cannot be used. When manual handling is necessary then risks must be assessed and minimised as much as possible.
Below are some questions answered surrounding manual handling that may be of benefit to various industry professionals.


Does moving multiple boxes affect the way employers should assess manual handling?


Yes this is something to consider. Firstly are all of the boxes similar weights and sizes? If there are many of them do you risk a repetitive strain injury moving them alone? Can the job be split between manual handling and use of a mechanical aid? Maybe a load rated sack truck can be used to assist with that particular job. Something to also consider is the risk assessment. If multiple journeys are to be made then does this affect the checks made to surrounding environment? For example, if the manual handling is taking place in a warehouse does the area need sectioning off to prevent third parties from changing the dynamics of the job at hand? Another solution may be to include more than one person to carry the goods so the load is equally shared.

We move industrial safes, what needs to be considered?


First and foremost the weight. Industrial safes are large units and tend to be heavy. A risk assessment would need to be carried out before anything else and a safe pathway should be written into this from the start position to desired location. With a product so large and heavy manual handling would likely not be an option so you would revert to handling aids. Such aids popular with this type of item would be Skoots Moving Systems or alternatively Skates or Jacks. Using this equipment gives you a safe and secure method and allows the persons relocating to focus on the direction of travel rather than the product weight itself.

Our product is moved outside, what would impact us with regards to manual handling?


A major factor to consider is the environment. Firstly is it or has it been raining? Wet conditions would have a major impact on safety of the job at hand as would windy conditions. Ideally, in these conditions goods would not be moved by hand if at all. If it is necessary then use of an aid such as sack truck / pallet truck would be recommended. If low weight loading and weather conditions are good. Ensure you stick to the guidelines of a risk assessment. Certain aspects will need to be considered including lighting, moving vehicles, appropriate walkways. It would also be highly recommended to wear correct PPE such as gloves, high visibility jacket and safety boots.

What about manual handling on stairs?


On stairs the laws of gravity are ultimately against you from the offset. After performing your risk assessment and understanding what may impact the job you would need to discover whether the weight of the product is potentially too high or too awkward to manually carry up and down stairs. This would ultimately depend on whether the person feels comfortable handling this weight and would not be off balance when carrying the goods. Carrying light loads is not usually too much of a problem and it is generally considered safe for single items of low load. If there is considerable weight involved or multiple boxes / cartons then the likely solution would be a manual handling aid such as a stair climber sack truck. A stair climber truck will take the load away from the user and allow them to focus on the negotiation of the stair way rather than the product weight. If moving considerable weight it may be a good idea to cordon off the stairway until the task has been performed. This would be something to consider and implementing when designing / creating a risk assessment. With more weight comes more risk so potentially more personnel could be required for the job depending on the factors.

We operate in a warehouse moving hazardous goods, what needs be considered?


All of the necessary risks should be looked into before undertaking movement of hazardous goods. Simply put the company should revert to the guidelines of COSHH (Control of substances hazardous to health) this would give you a much better insight into making a job safer for your employees along with adhering to general manual handling guidelines.


In conclusion it is safe to say that manual handling awareness impacts a huge part of how modern businesses are run today. Implementing the correct methods before tasks are undertaken is key to reducing the amount of injury occurrences happening within the workplace.

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