Why Is Manual Handling Important

Why Is Manual Handling Important?

Manual handling is crucial for several reasons, as it plays a vital role in:

  • Minimizing the potential for injuries resulting from unsafe manual handling practices.
  • Evaluating and managing manual handling risks by implementing control measures aligned with the hierarchy of controls, especially in situations where operations cannot be avoided.
  • Proactively avoiding hazardous manual handling tasks and restricting employee movements, considering factors such as Task, Individual, Load, and Environment (TILE).
  • Providing comprehensive training to workers, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle loads safely.
  • Establishing and enforcing health and safety protocols to safeguard against injuries in various work-related activities.

What is Manual Handling?

What is Manual Handling

Manual handling involves moving or supporting a load using physical effort, including activities like lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, throwing, and maneuvering objects by hand. 

This practice is widespread across industries like manufacturing, construction, agriculture, etc. 

Regrettably, as indicated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), over 33% of workplace injuries, encompassing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and repetitive strain injuries, stem from manual handling.

The inability to handle loads safely can have severe consequences for both employers and employees, potentially leading to injuries.

4 Key Areas of Manual Handling

Engaging in strenuous physical labor, repeating the same motions with arms and legs, and adopting awkward postures can heighten the chances of injuries related to manual handling. 

There are four main aspects to consider in manual handling, commonly known by the acronym TILE:

  • Task
  • Individual
  • Load
  • Environment

This framework aids assessors in pinpointing the potential risks linked to manual tasks.

Task: The manual handling activity

This essential aspect centers on the activities an employee needs to carry out. It encompasses the procedures and stages required to complete a task, including the proper movements like pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying objects. 

This also considers actions such as stooping or twisting at the waist during any process phase. The aim is to assess employees’ requirements, ensuring they have sufficient opportunities for rest and recovery.

Individual: The person involved and their capabilities

This aspect concentrates on the individual’s ability to perform the task. It is crucial to evaluate personal characteristics such as age, existing health conditions, previous injuries, training received, strength level, height, and flexibility.

Load: The object being moved or transported

When assessing a load, it’s not just about its weight; other factors like size, shape, and surfaces also come into play. 

These elements can impact balance, how the object is gripped, and the handler’s visibility. This can potentially make moving or transporting the Load challenging and even risky.

Environment: The area of manual handling activity

It’s essential to examine the work area, particularly in confined spaces. Uneven flooring can result in trips, posing risks of accidents, close calls, or, in more serious situations, fatalities. 

Environmental factors like inadequate ventilation and adverse weather conditions can also impact employees’ effectiveness in manual handling tasks.

5 Principles of Manual Handling

All employers must comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, which mandate the prevention, assessment, and reduction of the risk of injury from manual handling. 

Effective implementation of manual handling can benefit the organization by:

  • Lowering the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling.
  • Evaluating manual handling risks and implementing control measures based on the hierarchy of controls for unavoidable operations.
  • Preventing hazardous manual handling and restricting employee movements, considering TILE.

According to Health and Safety at Work summary statistics for 2019/20, in Great Britain alone, 480,000 workers, both new and longstanding, suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). 

The primary causes were attributed to manual handling, awkward or tiring positions, and activities like keyboard work or repetitive actions. 

The following are the five principles of manual handling that can be optimized to promote safer lifting practices in the workplace.

Plan – Using TILE to assess the area before picking or moving an object. This helps determine if manual handling involves strenuous activity or long distances, allowing employees to plan for adequate rest and recovery.

Position – Load the object evenly, utilizing handles to maximize an employee’s power. Maintain a good posture with feet shoulder-width apart, moving the body’s center as close as possible before lifting the object.

Pick – Always use two hands when possible and ensure the Load aligns with the person’s torso before moving. 

To mitigate the risk of injuries, it is advisable to maintain heavy loads within the “power zone.” 

This zone is defined horizontally between the shoulders and vertically between the middle of the thighs and the center of the chest, helping to prevent awkward postures during manual handling.

Proceed – Exercise caution when moving from one place to another. Ensure a clear and unobstructed path to prevent tripping during manual handling.

Place – Instead of dropping the Load abruptly, gently and steadily place it down when reaching the destination. This safeguards employees from unnecessary strain and injury. 

Position the destination conveniently to help manual handlers maintain a steady pace

10 Tips to Avoid Hazards

Back pain, often stemming from repetitive tasks and improper lifting practices, can lead to long-term Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). 

To mitigate these risks during manual handling, organizations can adopt the following proactive measures:

Deliver Comprehensive Training: Offer thorough manual handling training and conduct toolbox talks to ensure that employees are well-versed in proper techniques, emphasizing safety in lifting and handling procedures.

Implement Ergonomic Principles: Uphold the 10 ergonomic principles to decrease the likelihood of injuries and enhance overall task efficiency. Prioritize ergonomic considerations in the design of workstations and workflows.

Maintain Clear Pathways: Ensure unobstructed travel routes to facilitate safe movement. Clear pathways reduce the chances of accidents related to tripping or stumbling during manual handling activities.

Communicate Manual Handling Guidelines: Provide explicit details on manual handling procedures to workers, engaging in discussions about potential risk factors.

Regularly Review Injury Records: Analyze injury records periodically to identify recurring issues. This analytical approach allows organizations to pinpoint specific problems and tailor interventions to address them effectively.

Conduct Risk Assessments: Perform thorough risk assessments for manual handling tasks, considering task complexity, load characteristics, and the working environment. 

This proactive approach helps identify potential hazards and implement preventive measures.

Supply Mechanical Aids: Equip employees with mechanical aids designed to assist in handling heavy loads, thereby reducing physical strain. Forklifts, carts, and other aids can contribute to a safer and more efficient workplace.

Match Tasks to Competencies: Assign tasks based on individual capabilities, categorizing personnel according to their skills and physical abilities. This ensures that tasks are carried out by those best suited for them, minimizing the risk of injuries.

Appoint a Coordination Point Person: Nominate a point person to coordinate collective actions during team lifts. This coordination ensures that lifting procedures are synchronized, promoting safety and preventing accidents.

Regularly Update Organizational Policies: Keep organizational policies related to manual handling up-to-date. Staying current with industry best practices and safety standards ensures that policies safeguard employees effectively.

Manual Handling Training.

Ensuring the safety of employees is paramount, and the enforcement of manual handling training plays a crucial role in achieving this goal. 

A foundational grasp of policies, procedures, correct lifting techniques, and other essential principles is imperative to prevent incidents. 

Establishing sensible health and safety measures during manual handling is a shared responsibility between employers and employees.

Manual handling training empowers employees with fundamental principles of proper techniques and effective implementation. 

This training fosters awareness, reduces workplace risks, and ensures safe manual handling practices during operations. 

Customizing the training to align with the specific nature of the work is crucial. Consider the following factors when engaging in manual handling:

Plan for Long-Distance Lifts: Strategize for extended lifts by scheduling rests midway and preparing for recovery, minimizing strain during prolonged manual handling tasks.

Adapt Grip as Needed: Change your grip when necessary to maintain control and reduce the risk of injury, adapting to the nature of the Load and the manual handling task.

Keep the Load in the Power Zone: Position the Load within the power zone – the area close to the body between mid-thigh and mid-chest – to optimize strength and minimize the risk of injury.

Vary Posture and Movements: Alternate posture and movements to prevent strain and fatigue, promoting flexibility and reducing the risk of musculoskeletal issues.

Limit Forward and Sideways Reaches: Minimize the extent of forward and sideways reaches to maintain balance and reduce the risk of overextension or awkward positions.

Avoid Shoulder-Level Carrying: Refrain from carrying loads above shoulder level to prevent strain on the shoulders and upper body.

Use Both Hands for Loads: Avoid carrying or lifting objects with one hand, distributing the Load evenly to minimize the risk of imbalances and injuries.

Adhere to Individual Capacity: Do not exceed your individual lifting capacity, preventing overexertion and potential injuries.

Maintain Forward Vision: Always look ahead once the Load is secure, staying aware of your surroundings and potential obstacles.

Take Breaks and Rest: Find time to rest and recover during manual handling tasks, preventing fatigue and reducing the risk of injuries.

Use Equipment for High Shelves: When dealing with items on higher shelves, use equipment aids instead of overreaching, ensuring safety and preventing strain.

Seek Assistance When Needed: Don’t hesitate to ask for help when handling heavy or awkward loads, promoting teamwork and reducing the risk of individual injuries.

Ensure Proper Equipment Training: Only use equipment if properly trained, avoiding potential accidents and ensuring safe manual handling practices.

Report Pain or Discomfort Immediately: Promptly report any signs of pain or discomfort, addressing potential issues early and preventing the escalation of injuries.

Prefer Pushing Over Pulling: When possible, opt for the pushing method instead of pulling, reducing strain on the body during manual handling.

Perform Cooling Stretches: After heavy work, engage in body stretches to cool down and enhance flexibility, reducing the risk of muscle stiffness and discomfort.

Rotate Work Tasks: Change work routines among team members to prevent excessive work rates and distribute manual handling tasks evenly.

Leverage Heavy Lifting Lessons: Apply lessons from heavy lifting training to optimize techniques and reduce the risk of injuries during manual handling.

While some may perceive injuries resulting from improper manual handling as minor or superficial, they can frequently lead to severe and enduring consequences.

Short-term injuries

In the workplace, injuries like cuts, bruises, sprains, tears, and muscle strains can easily occur during the movement of loads. 

These injuries typically result from sudden or unexpected accidents, such as losing grip, dropping a load, or falling while carrying it. 

While some injuries from manual handling may appear to heal relatively quickly, they can still inflict significant pain, fatigue, and stress on the affected individual and their family.

In the 2017/18 period, over 469,000 workers experienced work-related MSDs, leading to a loss of 6.6 million working days.

The majority of these disorders stem from inadequate manual handling practices, particularly in tasks involving heavy or awkward loads, repetitive twisting, turning, and bending of the back, neck, or torso, reaching into hard-to-access areas, and working in confined spaces with unstable flooring.

Beyond the physical implications, obtaining an injury from poor manual handling can significantly impact an individual’s mental health

Coping with long-term injuries that are challenging to endure, coupled with being out of work, can contribute to stress, depression, and anxiety. Addressing work-related MSDs is a critical priority for both individual well-being and workplace productivity.

For this reason, it is imperative to provide proper training in manual handling within the workplace. 

Employers and employees should prioritize preventing and controlling work-related musculoskeletal disorders. This aligns with the priorities established by health and safety authorities like the Health and Safety Executive.

Mental health issues

Mental health issues

Sustaining an injury due to inadequate manual handling practices can profoundly impact an individual’s mental well-being

Coping with enduring injuries that are challenging to bear, coupled with the prospect of being out of work, can lead to negative effects on mental health. 

Long-term stress, depression, and anxiety often manifest in individuals grappling with work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Recognizing the potential mental health consequences, it becomes imperative to prioritize proper training in manual handling within the workplace. 

The prevention and control of work-related MSDs emerge as a significant concern, not just for individual health but also for overall workplace well-being. 

This emphasis aligns with the priorities set by health and safety authorities, such as the Health and Safety Executive, underlining the importance of incorporating measures to safeguard both physical and mental health in the workplace.

Deliver manual handling training to your teams.

Prioritizing the health and safety of every worker is paramount, and ensuring they undergo and complete manual handling training is a key step in achieving this goal. 

Manual handling tasks, including packaging or lifting boxes, operating hand tools or machinery, assembling products, pulling or pushing trolleys, and cleaning, pose a risk of musculoskeletal injuries and related disorders for employees engaged in such activities. 

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that manual handling operations within your business are executed correctly, minimizing the occurrence of workplace injuries and accidents.

Implementing manual handling training not only fulfills this responsibility but also contributes to increased awareness among employees, improved performance, and a reduction in absences due to injuries. 

To facilitate this, we offer a variety of manual handling training courses covering subjects such as the proper storage and handling of chemicals, equipment, machinery, and power tools.

Make the investment in your employees’ well-being and the efficiency of your operations by ensuring they receive comprehensive manual handling training.

How Can SafetyCulture Help with Manual Handling

Manual handling is a nuanced task that extends beyond simple object lifting, requiring proper knowledge of handling techniques to prevent body strain. 

Training and conducting thorough assessments to mitigate manual handling risks are essential starting points. 

SafetyCulture, formerly known as iAuditor, provides a platform for inspections, issue capture, and corrective actions, aiding employers in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. 

  • Take advantage of its noteworthy features:
  • Capture photos of manual handling risk factors and annotate images for enhanced visual reference.
  • Generate risk assessment reports securely saved in the cloud, easily shareable with key personnel from any location.
  • Facilitate employee training on proper carrying, lifting, and moving methods.
  • Manage assets and inventories conveniently in one centralized location.


Why is manual handling important in the workplace?

Manual handling is crucial as it involves the lifting, moving, and carrying of objects, reducing the risk of injuries and musculoskeletal disorders among workers.

How can manual handling training benefit employees?

Training provides employees with proper techniques, raising awareness to prevent injuries, enhance performance, and reduce workplace absences.

What types of injuries can result from incorrect manual handling?

Injuries may include cuts, bruises, sprains, tears, muscle strains, and long-term musculoskeletal disorders.

How can SafetyCulture assist in manual handling risk management?

SafetyCulture provides a platform for inspection, issue capture, and corrective action, offering features like risk assessment templates, photo documentation, and report generation.

What are the consequences of neglecting proper manual handling practices?

Neglecting proper practices can result in increased workplace injuries, higher healthcare costs, and a negative impact on employee well-being and productivity.

How can manual handling training contribute to mental health in the workplace?

Training can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by preventing long-term injuries ensuring a healthier and more supportive work environment.

What industries benefit most from manual handling training?

Industries involving lifting, carrying, and moving loads, such as manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and logistics, benefit significantly from manual handling training.

How often should manual handling training be conducted?

Regular training sessions are essential, with frequency depending on the nature of the work and the introduction of new manual handling tasks.

Can manual handling risk assessments be conducted without an internet connection?

Yes, with tools like SafetyCulture, manual handling risk assessments can be performed offline on mobile devices and later synchronized when an internet connection is available.

Why is it important to involve employees in developing manual handling procedures?

Involving employees ensures that manual handling procedures are practical realistic, and consider the insights and experiences of those directly engaged in the tasks, fostering a safer and more collaborative work environment.


To streamline your efforts, a ready-to-use manual handling risk assessment template is available for free download, fully customizable to meet your business needs. 

Additionally, explore SafetyCulture’s Public Library, which contains free checklist templates applicable to diverse industries. 

Furthermore, you can convert existing PDFs, Word Documents, Excel, or PowerPoint files into SafetyCulture checklists at no cost (for up to 3 files). This comprehensive approach aims to save time while enhancing workplace safety and efficiency.

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