Manual Handling

Manual Handling

Manual handling is a term that covers activities such as lifting, carrying and moving. All of these activities can put you at risk of injury if you don’t handle them correctly. Manual handling injuries are one of the most common causes of work-related illness and injury in the UK.

What is Manual handling?

Manual handling is any activity that involves lifting, pushing, pulling or carrying a load. It can be carried out in many different ways and has been defined as ‘any operation which directly involves the use of hands and arms to move objects’. This includes:

  • Lifting – moving an object from one place to another without being supported by a mechanical device such as a forklift
  • Pushing – moving an object along a fixed path (for example, using a pallet truck)
  • Pulling – moving an object along a fixed path using human power (for example, using ropes)
  • Carrying – carrying loads upstairs or over long distances within the workplace.

Manual handling risk factors

When moving objects, the following factors are important:

  • How heavy is the object?
  • How awkward is it to hold and carry?

Improving your manual handling technique.

  • Use the right tools. Choose tools that fit your hand and are comfortable to use.
  • Use the right equipment. Make sure that any lifting equipment is designed for manual handling purposes and is suitable for your task, e.g., a harness rather than a sling or rope system. Avoid using protective equipment that may cause injury if used incorrectly (e.g., back support belts not fitted correctly).
  • Use the right posture, body mechanics and lifting techniques:
  • Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart, knees bent slightly and toes pointing forward; keep the back straight but not stiff; keep shoulders relaxed while keeping arms at sides or holding objects close to chest; lift objects close to centre of gravity (rather than bending over); bend legs when picking up heavy objects from floor level; get help from another person as appropriate; do not carry more than one object at a time unless both objects are light enough for this practice to be safe for you/your colleagues/your other workers etc.; move sideways rather than forwards when moving loads across obstructions such as doorways so as not to twist spine unnecessarily

Poor manual handling can cause serious chronic pain and injury.

Manual handling is a common cause of injury and chronic pain, which can result in strains, sprains and serious conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common injuries associated with manual handling include:

  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI) – RSI is caused by repeated movements that place excessive stress on tissues. It can appear as a tingling or numbness in the hands, wrists or arms.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – This condition affects 8% of all UK employees. Symptoms include aches and pains in the hands, fingers and wrist area, often accompanied by numbness or tingling sensations.
  • Back pain – Backache can occur when lifting heavy loads, twisting excessively at work or from having an awkward posture for long periods of time at work.

However there are many simple ways to reduce these risks and improve your technique:


Manual handling can be dangerous, but with the right training and technique it can also be a safe and effective way to move heavy items.

Our Manual Handling Risk Assessment Template is Available HERE

In addition we also have a completed example Risk Assessment for:

Hand Arm Vibration (White Finger) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Available HERE

For more related information our Article on an Occupational Overuse Checklist is worth reading.