Manual Handling: The Art of Safer Lifting

Manual handling covers many work activities like lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, and carrying. Manual handling tasks are often repetitive and can include things like packing, assembling, and using machinery and equipment. Most jobs involve some kind of manual handling, so most workers are at risk of injury.

You can reduce the risk of injury by using correct lifting techniques and using equipment to assist you with lifting heavy goods where necessary.

Identifying hazards in your workplace

To check for hazards which might increase the risk of an injury occurring, walk through your workplace and inspect it, discuss safety and potential risks with employees, look at your accident book or similar to identify any recurring patterns of injury and keep risk assessments up to date with what you find.

Assessing what might contribute to injury risk

  • The type of work employees are doing: Are they working in a fixed posture for long periods of time?
  • What’s the workplace like? Is the workplace cramped or designed so that people have to bend or twist constantly?
  • What sort of objects have to be moved? Does your business deal mostly with heavy goods?
  • Where are goods located? Do goods have to moved from awkward positions such as above shoulder height or below knee level?
  • Are most of the loads employees have to lift slippery, bulky, or an awkward shape?

Reducing manual handling risks

  • Repack heavier loads into smaller packages if possible.
  • Use ergonomic furniture and make sure work benches and stations are set at the right height so excessive stretching or bending is avoided.
  • Use manual handling aids like trucks, trolleys, or forklifts.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Make sure all employees are fully trained in both their job role and in manual handling techniques.

Safer lifting techniques

Where you have to lift a load, follow these tips to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Remove any obstructions from your route.
  • Keep the load close to your waist. The closer to the body you keep the load the better. If you can’t get close, try sliding the load towards you before you lift it.
  • Keep the heaviest side of the load close to the body.
  • Keep your body position stable. Position your feet apart, with one leg slightly forward for optimum balance.
  • Plan the lift before you do it. Should you use a handling aid? Do you need help?
  • Avoid tight clothing or unsuitable footwear.
  • Before you lift, bend slightly at the back, hips, and knees. Don’t flex your spine or squat fully.
  • Don’t lean sideways or twist the back, keep the shoulders level and facing in the same direction as the hips.
  • Look straight ahead not down when lifting.
  • Don’t jerk or snatch the load as this can make it harder to control and increases the risk of injury.
  • Don’t try to lift more than you can manage. If you are in any doubt, ask for help.