Safe lifting and lowering

The definition of manual handling is a person lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving a load. As with any hazardous workplace activity, care must be taken to minimise any injuries that may arise from unsafe manual handling.

In accordance with the Manual Handling Regulations 1992, there is a guidance-maximum weight of 25kg for men to lift and 15kg for women to lift.  This is guidance weight only and can be exceeded by an individual if they feel comfortable lifting more. If an individual feels they cannot lift this weight for any reason, they can lift less than the guidance weight. 

A manual handling risk assessment will help decide what is safe to lift manually and if any additional control measures are needed to reduce risk.  

An employer must take responsibility for the health and safety of their workers. In general, it’s best to avoid manual handling wherever possible. However, where manual handling must happen, the risks must be minimised as much as possible.

a man leans on his rake

Employer duties

An employer’s duties under the Manual Handling Regulations:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations wherever reasonably practicable – find a balance between the risk and the effort, time and money needed to control it.
  • Assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employee duties

Employees have to follow any safe systems of work put in place for their health and safety to make manual handling safer. These could include:

  • Using any safety equipment that is provided.
  • Reporting any issues they find in their day-to-day work.
  • Making sure their activities do not put themselves or others at risk. 

Failure to meet these obligations will heighten the risk and could lead to injury.  

an aeroplane part is lifted with a hoist

Things to consider when lifting

To reduce risk when manual handling, particularly when carrying heavy objects, workers should always:

  • Lift items with correct posture
  • Check there are no obstructions along the path they intend to take
  • Plan a position to safely pause halfway when carrying objects long distances
  • Check they can reasonably manage the load they are about to handle.  If they cannot handle the load safely do they need help – i.e. a team lift? 

Risk assessments for manual handling

A manual handling risk assessment should follow the acronym TILE:

T = Task – the nature of the task itself

I =  Individual – the ability of the individual person carrying out the task

L = Load – the weight and type of load being moved

E = Environment – the environment in which the activity is being carried out.

pallets in a warehouse on a trolley

Specific risks when manual handling

Factors like how far the load must travel, whether it must be regularly moved, and whether there is repeated lifting and putting down also affect the ease of manual handling. Additionally, consider whether the load is difficult to manage. Is it sharp, slippery, hot, unpredictable or in any other way volatile?

People with pre-existing conditions that could be worsened by manual handling should not be allowed to carry out manual handling under any circumstances until it is safe to do so. Similarly, pregnant workers should not be expected to carry large loads.

Although easily overlooked, the lifting environment also matters. If it’s cramped, movement is not as easy, which can result in strain or injury. If the surfaces are unsafe, or there are extremes of temperature or lighting, lifting can become more dangerous.

If all other control measures in the hierarchy of controls have been implemented, PPE may also be needed, such as gloves or safety footwear i.e. boots or shoes. 

digging railways

Reducing injuries through manual handling

There are some simple measures you can take to help reduce the risks of manual handling to your workforce:

  • Making the lift task mechanised – using equipment to reduce the risk i.e. trolly, sack barrow. 
  • Reducing the load to make it smaller or easier to handle to reduce the strain of lifting.
  • Where possible, modify the route to reduce carrying distances. 
  • Using a team lift. 

Additionally, if manual handling is a common occurrence in your business and cannot be avoided, consider:

  • Regular updates of training i.e. toolbox talk
  • Ensuring adequate lifting space in the work environment
  • Ensuring the flooring is suitable with no tripping hazards or changes in floor height
  • Ensuring lighting levels are adequate 

Training employees to lift correctly

Employers have an obligation to train all employees to lift correctly. For team members who only handle objects occasionally, our manual handling eLearning course is a perfect solution. However, for workplaces that rely on manual handling as a core part of their operations, it is worth arranging bespoke face-to-face, on-site training.

If you need any further information on manual handling, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Published On: 16th November 2022 / Categories: Health and Safety /

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