Manual Handling

Further resources – Health & Safety Executive – Manual Handling

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), manual handling is one of the most common causes of injury at work and causes over a third of all workplace injuries.

Including work related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) such as upper and lower limb pain/disorders and joint and repetitive strain injuries.

Manual handling simply means the lifting, handling and transporting of something using our bodies. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something heavy; you can cause a manual handling injury by lifting something comparatively light but with the wrong posture or repetitively.

The guidance you should consider giving your teams includes:

  • Try and avoid manual handling by the use of mechanical means to lift heavy items (sack trucks, pallet trucks, plant or trolleys)
  • Ask for assistance in lifting something that you cannot comfortably lift yourself – there’s a difference between what you can lift and what you should – don’t be a hero!
  • Think before you lift, plan your route so you don’t have to walk around of climb over obstructions
  • Wear gloves if appropriate- these will provide you with more friction and a better hold on the item


  • Keep the load as close to your waist for as long as possible and hug the load close to your body
  • Adopt a stable position with your legs balancing your weight evenly
  • Wear appropriate footwear
  • Try not to bend your back – use your knees instead
  • Don’t bend backwards or twist while carrying a heavy item
  • Try and move smoothly

An underused control measure to prevent injury from manual handling is ensuring people warm up before attempting physical activity. An ex-army quartermaster was telling us how he made his teams jog around the base and do 30 press ups before they started any physical work in the stores.You may not be able to get your crew to do that but should encourage them to stretch before starting work and build up to any heavier loads with a series of smaller loads to ensure they are physically warmed up.