December 18, 2016

Getting to grips with changes to Manual Handling guidance

It’s something we do every day at home and work, yet manual handling is the biggest cause of work related injuries in the UK.

And if we don’t manage it properly, manual handling can lead to chronic, debilitating disorders including injury and damage of the joints or other tissues in the upper and lower limbs or the back.

So here’s a quick guide on how to prevent manual handling-related injuries in your workplace.

What constitutes Manual Handling?

It is defined as ‘any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force’ as per the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) This means anything from picking up a file from a shelf, pushing a pram or carrying a box.

Why has Manual Handling guidance been changed?

With an estimated 8.8 million working days lost to, and half a million workers affected by, work related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), of which manual handling injuries are part, the HSE has updated its guidance on Manual Handling LS23 to make it simpler and with additional information on carrying out risk assessment.

Manual Handling breaches have serious consequences

Recently, a car component manufacturer was sentenced after six workers experienced back injuries from repeatedly lifting heavy car engine parts by hand. Birmingham Crown Court heard that between 1 November 2013 and 7 January 2015, the HSE received six reports of workers who had injured their backs and been off work for more than seven days.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that workers who were based on two of the company’s production lines were expected to manually lift engine components weighing between 14 and 21kgs, hundreds of times during a shift. Mechanical lifting aids were either not provided, not suitable, or there had been no training had been received by workers in how to operate them.

There were no suitable or sufficient manual handling assessments in place for the tasks involved.

Fact: Handling, carrying or lifting accounted for 20% of non-fatal injuries in 2015/16

(Source: HSE Statistics)

Why Manual Handling assessments are vital

Manual handling is the biggest cause of work related injuries in the UK and if not managed properly can lead to chronic and debilitating disorders.

What are the legal requirements for Manual Handling?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 state that employers are required to:

  • Avoid the need for hazardous Manual Handling, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.
  • Assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.

‘Reasonably practicable’ means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the risk in terms of real time, money or trouble.

What to remember when carrying out a Manual Handling risk assessment

There is a requirement in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 to carry out a risk assessment on hazardous manual handling that may cause injury. The main areas to focus on are the task, individual, load, and environment.


How often is the task carried out, how much twisting or bending is needed?


Capability, male or female, old or young, experienced or inexperienced?


How heavy is it? Can a good grip be made? Is it bulky? Heavier at one end?


Hot, cold, uneven floor, windy, stairs?

By using the acronym TILE you can help ensure that you’ve covered every area which may be affected any Manual Handling taking place.

We’ve uploaded a handy Manual Handling guidance booklet and toolkit to our hub, which gives you more information on carrying out an assessment and useful example checklists to determine the risk.

The toolkit works well with your own necessary health and safety information and training given to employees.

If you require any advice and guidance to help you establish whether your business is fully legally compliant in providing and maintaining a safe place of work or to check your risk assessments are suitable and sufficient contact us or call 0345 184 4615.

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About the author

Donna Buckle

She has eight years' experience in the field of environmental health, having previously worked in the charitable sector as Health & Safety Lead and Depot Manager before joining the team as a Consultant in 2015. Donna is NEBOSH-qualified and a University of Reading graduate.

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