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The Ultimate Guide to Manual Handling

Manual handling is a hugely common aspect of many professions, especially those in the construction or warehousing sectors. Even retail assistants may have to move an odd box of products, which is considered manual handling. But it can be surprising how many people do not know how to properly manually handle. In fact, according to UNISON, each year in the UK, 300,000 people in the UK suffer from back pain as a result of improper manual handling. 

However, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that staff and team members are protected from the risks and hazards associated with manual handling. This means ensuring they have undergone the correct manual handling course and have the information and working conditions to work optimally and safely.

You have come to the right place for more information on manual handling. Here at NATAS, we have created the ultimate guide to manual handling to help you with all aspects, from advice and tips to information on your legal responsibility. For further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us today

What is Manual Handling?

Before we dive any further, let’s define manual handling, as it may be more in-depth than you realise. According to the HSE, manual handling is the carrying, moving, pushing, pulling, lifting or lowering of a load. The load is defined as a moveable object, for example, a box, pile or package. Or it can also be a person, animal, or something that can be pushed or pulled, like a pallet truck, roll cart, or shelves. 

In simple terms, it is any movement of an object or being that requires physical exertion. 

Dangers of Improper Manual Handling 

So, manual handling should sound simple, but when done improperly, it can lead to serious injury. In the UK, one in three workplace accidents is caused by poor manual handling, and the damage caused to the neck, back and spine can lead to extreme pain and even permanent injury. 

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Manual handling injuries are a musculoskeletal disorder, the umbrella for all injuries and conditions that cause neck, limb and joint pain. Suffering due to poor manual handling techniques is one of the main causes of developing an MSD. It is also important to note that someone may have multiple MSDs affecting different body parts. 

Parts of the Body Affected by MSDs

  • Lower Back 
  • Neck
  • Shoulders 
  • Forearms 
  • Wrists & Hands
  • Hips 
  • Legs
  • Knees
  • Ankles & Feet

6 Tips for Good Manual Handling

So, it is clear that proper manual handling techniques are essential in order to minimise the risk of injury. The most efficient and effective way to ensure this is to have manual handling training in place for all team members on your site. In fact, it is a legal requirement that anyone who may need to do so has the appropriate training on manual handling – but we’ll discuss more on that later! 

For now, here are a few tips and advice you can employ immediately amongst your team before a professional and certified online manual handling course can be undertaken.

1. Think Carefully 

Before diving into any manual handling task, you must consider it carefully, even if it’s routine. This means before even touching the load to be moved, you should think about the following: 

  • Where is the load going to be placed?
  • Do you need any help with the load? 
  • Can you rest the load mid-trip on longer movements? 

You should also take this time to remove any obstructions from your planned route to efficiently move the load without disruption. 

2. Get in a Stable Position

Adopting the correct foot positioning is imperative for correct manual handling. This means your feet should be apart with one leg in front of the other. The best way to get the correct position is to do so while the load is still on the ground. Ensure one foot is in line with the load on the floor. Having the right position allows you to maintain stability. However, you should be prepared to move your feet during the lift to adapt. 

3. A Good Hold on the Load

Don’t rely on a good grip on the load with your hands alone. Where possible, you should hug the load close to your body, keeping it in line with your waist when possible. When lifting, keep the heaviest side of the load as close to your body as possible.

4. Slightly Flex, Don’t Bend

The key to any good manual handling technique is to bend with your knees and not your back. But many people assume this means dropping to a squat to pick up the load. Instead, you should avoid a full bend at the knees or hips. Adopt a slight flex at the start of the lift for your knees, hips and back, and avoid stopping or flexing further as you begin to lift. 

5. Avoid Twisting or Leaning

When carrying the load, you must avoid twisting or leaning. If you need to turn, do so with your feet and keep your shoulders facing the same direction as your hips. Similarly, you should always hold your head high and avoid looking down at the load you support. 

6. Move Smoothly

Erratic or jerky movements can increase the risk of injury when manual handling and also make it harder to maintain control. So, when moving a load, you should keep a smooth movement. You should also avoid adjusting the load’s position before placing it down. When you reach the final destination, place the load carefully and adjust it accordingly when you no longer hold the weight. 

How to Handle Accidents in Manual Handling 

As we mentioned earlier, poor manual handling can result in many injuries. From falls and trips to hand and foot injuries or strains. But what should you do if you suffer pain or injury from a manual handling accident?

Any injury should be seen and assessed by a medical professional and the results of which are reported in the work accident book. The doctor can also provide treatment instructions for the injury, which could mean pain relief, physical therapy or support. 

Laws Around Manual Handling 

First and foremost, all employers and managers have a legal duty of care for their employees according to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This duty includes providing adequate health and safety training for their role. So, even if manual handling is just a small part of their job and not even something they deal with daily, training should still be provided. 

By law, any employer, manager or safety representative in charge of a team, business or site must follow the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. It is stated in the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 that all employers must comply with the manual handling regulations. This means ensuring all members of staff have completed appropriate manual handling training. 

The Training You Need for Manual Handling 

Your team must have appropriate manual handling training to comply with the law. At NATAS, we offer online manual handling training that covers all the information your team needs to know to safely and efficiently move and transport objects or loads. Our online manual handling course is extensive, from techniques, tips and advice to further information on the risks and consequences of injury or failure. 

Beyond instructions, effective manual handling training should also change the attitudes and behaviours of your team to make them more mindful of the job at hand. It will also promote risk awareness of both team members and employers, leading to more risks being reported to improve site-wide safety measures. This can be achieved through industry-specific training, and practical learning demonstrated on your site. 

Explore our Manual Handling Awareness online course today, or learn more about our bespoke training course opportunities available. 

For more advice and information, get in touch with our friendly team today. We would be happy to discuss our manual handling training in more detail and answer any questions you may have. We can also discuss quotes for full team training.


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