Have you ever gone to lift something at work on your own, knowing that you probably shouldn’t? If you’re short-staffed or need to get something done in a hurry, it’s tempting, but have you considered the possible consequences?
Lifting something that’s too heavy can result in musculoskeletal injuries that require time off work. They can affect you financially, and they impact upon your quality of life. But if it comes to claiming compensation should you need to, ignoring the rules can mean any possible award can be considerably reduced.
Every manual handling activity in your workplace should have been risk-assessed according to regulations, so before you lift a heavy or bulky item single-handedly, you should familiarise yourself with the recommendations for safe lifting.
What is the maximum weight limit you can lift at work?
There’s no legal maximum weight, but there are guidelines for the recommended maximum weight that is safe to lift. The recommended safe maximum weight that should be lifted depends on how the load is being lifted, whether it’s being lifted close to the body, and how high or low the weight is when it’s being lifted.
Manual handling guidelines say that the maximum most men should lift is 25kg. This is for weights carried close to the body at waist height. The maximum is reduced to 5kg for loads held at arm’s length or above shoulder height.
The guidelines recommend lower weights for women. The recommended maximum weight for women is 16kg for loads held at waist height.
Even if a weight you’re carrying is lighter than the maximum limit, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe. It can still cause injury, as there are many factors to take into account when lifting a load, including working conditions, whether the load can be easily held, and whether the person lifting the load is physically fit and has been trained in manual handling techniques.
When to reduce the load
You should not attempt to lift a heavy load if lifting it involves:
- Twisting or bending
- Lifting in a confined space
- Repeated activity
What should you do if your employer asks you to lift more than the recommended maximum weight?
In the course of your job, you might get asked to lift something that you don’t feel capable of lifting, even if it’s below the maximum guidelines. In this case, report your health and safety concerns to a supervisor or line manager, and ask to see any risk assessment that should have been completed for the activity you’re being asked to do.
Reputable employers should abide by health and safety regulations and recommended guidelines, and if they don’t, you should make your concerns known. If you aren’t listened to, it might be time to speak to a Trade Union Rep or seek legal advice.