Manual Handling

Last reviewed on 22/11/2012 15:00

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Poor manual handling (i.e. the transporting or supporting of loads by hand or by bodily force) is responsible for over a third of all injuries requiring more than three days off work reported each year to the HSE and local authorities.

Most of the reported accidents relate to back injuries, though hands, arms and feet (e.g. cuts and bruises) are also vulnerable.

A manual handling assessment should be performed where there are bulky, heavy, or awkward loads. The main areas to assess are:

The Task:

What is the task, and does the load need to be lifted manually, or are mechanical aids available? Does the task involve stooping, twisting, or reaching upwards? What is the distance the load has to be moved? How often does the load have to be moved?

The Load:

Is the load heavy or bulky? Is it difficult to grasp? Could slings be used? Is the load stable? Are there any sharp edges or hot surfaces?

The Working Environment:

Do awkward postures have to be used? Is there confined space? Are there variations in levels? Are there hot or cold conditions or weather conditions? Is the lighting poor? Are there any restrictions on movement?

Individual Capacity:

It is important to look at each individual's physical capability before carrying out a manual handling task. Anyone with a known injury or disability should be individually assessed. Individuals have varied physical capacity, and this should be considered. Special assessment is required for those with impaired vision, reduced grip strength, pregnancy or disability of the limbs.

Precautions while handling

When you have to move bulky, heavy or awkward items (e.g. large boxes, computer monitors, desks, chairs, etc.), make sure you do so properly by:

  1. Positioning your feet: Keep your feet apart, giving a balanced and stable base for lifting (tight skirts and unsuitable footwear make this difficult). Your leading leg should be as far forward as is comfortable and, if possible, pointing in the direction you intend to go.
  2. Adopting a good posture: When lifting from a low level, bend your knees. Keep your back straight, maintaining its natural curve. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips.
  3. Getting a firm grip: Try to keep your arms within the boundary formed by your legs. When holding on to something, a hook grip is less tiring than keeping your fingers straight. If you need to change your grip as you continue to lift the object, do this as smoothly as possible.
  4. Keeping close to the load: Keep the load close to your body for as long as possible, with the heaviest side of the load towards you. If you can't get close to the load at first, slide it towards you before you try to lift it.
  5. Lifting smoothly: Raise your chin as you begin the lift, keeping control of the load.
  6. Moving your feet: If you have to turn, move your feet - don’t twist your trunk.
  7. Putting it down, then adjusting it: If you need to put the load in a particular position, put it down first, then slide it into the desired position.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations suggest that any object over 25kgs should not be moved manually unless it is by a two-person lift. In such a lift, good communication is vital to ensure that each individual is adequately prepared for the lift and that both lift at the same time.

Basically, you need to stop and think - plan the lift, and use appropriate handling aids if possible.


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