Manual handling accidents and injuries are all too common in the UK. HSE statistics show that in the year 2020-2021, there were 1.7 million working people suffering from a work-related illness. Work-related musculoskeletal problems accounted for 470,000 of these cases. To make lifting at work safer, knowing the manual handling lifting limits is a good start.
There can be serious consequences when you don’t lift things safely. You could suffer an accident or injury (or worse). You could need time off work or be unable to work due to your injury. Businesses can face huge compensation claims and sick pay bills. That’s why it’s so important to understand not only safe lifting techniques but also the manual handling lifting limits.
This is not an easy question to answer. What counts as safe depends on the task and the strength of the person doing the lifting.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 state that employers must take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury from manual handling to the lowest level possible.
The regulations state that avoiding manual handling wherever possible is the ideal. Though where this isn’t possible, the employer must carry out a risk assessment of manual handling activities.
What kind of task is it? How long will it take? Is it done regularly and is it repetitive in nature? Does it require workers to twist, stoop, or reach upwards?
Who is doing the lifting? Are there any at-risk groups doing lifting as part of their job? For example pregnant women or people who’ve returned to work after an injury.
Is the load bulky or difficult to grasp? Does it contain liquids or anything that moves and makes it harder to control the load?
What’s the working environment like? Is the terrain even? Is there enough space for people to manoeuvre?
Once you’ve considered these factors, then you can identify safe manual handling lifting limits.
The HSE provides guidance on safe manual handling lifting limits. They are not technically ‘safe limits’ because what is safe will depend on all the factors we just mentioned.
Based on the general population, the HSE states that the upper limit the average man should safely handle is 25kg. For the average woman, it’s 16kg.
However, these loads apply to safe and conventional lifting. Think about if you had to lift a box onto a shelf that was shoulder height. Would it be safe to lift 25kg then? Probably not.
The limits identified by the HSE apply only to manual handling tasks where:
If these conditions aren’t met, a more robust risk assessment needs to be in place. Different manual handling lifting limits may need to be set or alternatives to manual handling put in place.
Abiding by the guidance and using common sense on manual handling lifting limits is one piece of the puzzle. Using safe manual handling techniques is the other. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to remember;
So there you have it, our guide to safer manual handling at work. Employers, make sure you assess tasks properly and put safety processes in place. Employees, follow the rules, use common sense, and use good handling techniques when you lift. Don’t try to lift that load you think might be too heavy for you, just to get the job done. Know your limits, and don’t exceed them because this has serious consequences all too often for employers and employees.
Want to make manual handling safer and easier in your business? Take a look at our range of trucks and trolleys that will reduce the risk of injury and improve efficiency. Check out our articles on how to improve lifting in the workplace and manual or electric.