Manual Handling

The health and safety aspects of most physical work activities are covered by the Risk Assessment and Task Safety categories, even if they are not actually named. The processes of risk assessment and task analysis can be applied to all activities, but we believe that manual handling needs a category of its you need to know about manual handling.

It is the one work activity that is common to all workplaces.  8.9 million days were lost due to musculoskeletal disorders (manual handling injuries) according to the most recent statistics, with each injured person taking an average of 18 days off. 

Some of these injuries are life-altering and can happen in the blink of an eye.  With the proper training, many of them could be avoided.  This section will explain how to identify the manual handling activities in your organisation and the steps you must take to make your workplace safer.


  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1992

Frequently asked questions

It’s not nonsense because serious manual handling injuries can be caused so easily. And it’s not “over the top” because once you have worked out what manual handling you are undertaking in your company, that’s it – it’s not something you have to do again (unless you introduce new types of work). When you ask about “every single activity” you imply that there is a huge number of activities when actually you can group them together into lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling. If you read through this section, you will realise that making manual handling safer in your company is not as complicated or as onerous as you think. 

When interpreting health and safety legislation, it’s important to be proportionate. Obviously, assessing manual handling operations on a construction site is very different from looking at the activities carried out in a low-risk environment. Risk assessments are required for activities where there is a significant risk. BUT – lifting a box of paper incorrectly can cause serious injury; unlikely, but it can happen, and I have personal experience of this.  Plus, manual handling is not just about lifting heavy items, it’s about lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling anything. People often make the mistake of thinking it’s only the weight of a load that makes it dangerous, but that’s just not true. So, we recommend that you read through this section and then take a considered view of how you will approach the issue of manual handling in your place of work.  And do you know what?  It really doesn’t take long to complete a manual handling risk assessment and if it prevents injury, why wouldn’t you write it?

There is a requirement to mechanise manual handling processes if you can, but the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 says that you only have to do what is reasonably practicable. Many problems can be resolved by throwing money at them, but very few of us are in the position of being able to do this. I recommend that you complete a manual handling risk assessment for the tasks concerned (and look at the completed example we have provided for guidance) to help you identify what other control measures you can put in place to make manual handling as safe as possible.  If mechanisation is a sensible control that would make your work activities considerably safer, then you will have to give it serious consideration because to continue with an activity that you know to be hazardous is illegal.