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Staying on the Right Side of Manual Handling Regulations

Manual handling refers to the transporting or supporting of loads by hand or bodily force. It covers a wide variety of activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying.

Manual handling is one of the biggest causes of workplace injury, so it is crucial for employers to comply with manual handling regulations.

The key piece of legislation is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, which requires employers to avoid hazardous manual handling operations where reasonably practicable. This may involve redesigning tasks, providing mechanical assistance like trolleys or hoists, or reducing the amount of manual handling required.

If manual handling can’t be avoided, employers must carry out a thorough risk assessment. This assessment should consider:

  • The nature of the task itself

  • The characteristics of the loads being handled

  • The working environment

  • The capability of individual employees

The risk assessment must identify any hazards, who could be harmed and what controls are in place to reduce the risks. It helps employers determine whether they should be doing more to protect their staff.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced guidelines on acceptable weights for common manual handling tasks like lifting, lowering, carrying, twisting and pushing/pulling. Working within these guidelines provides a reasonable level of protection in most cases. But a more detailed, task-specific assessment is still required if:

  • Handling is done more frequently than every 2 minutes

  • The operation involves twisting as well as lifting

  • There are additional risk factors like uneven floors

If risks are identified in the assessment, employers must take steps to avoid or reduce them so far as is reasonably practicable. There are many potential control measures, including:

  • Providing lifting aids and handling devices

  • Improving workplace layout and task design

  • Splitting loads to reduce weight and bulk

  • Ensuring adequate rest breaks between tasks

Appropriate information and training is also a legal requirement for staff engaged in manual handling activities. Refresher training should be provided on a regular basis.

Conducting a thorough risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork. It is about identifying sensible, proportionate measures to protect your employees from harm. By working within the HSE guidelines and taking advantage of their manual handling assessment tools, employers can stay firmly on the right side of the regulations.


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