Safety Services


Manual Handling

Manual handling is the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving of loads by hands or bodily force. This page provides guidance on how to manage the risks when manual handling.


National statistics show that more than a quarter of accidents reported are associated with the manual handling of loads. Sprains and strains are common together with cuts and bruises. No type of work is immune from this source of injury, whether in offices, workshops, laboratories, kitchens and delivery activities.

The purpose of this guidance is to ensure that Departments have arrangements in place to manage the risks associated with the manual handling of loads arising from the work of the Department.

Duties and Responsibilities

Heads of Department

The Head of Department must ensure that Departmental arrangements are in place to identify and manage the risks associated with manual handling activities.

The arrangements must ensure that:

  • manual handling operations are avoided where possible.
  • manual handling operations that cannot be avoided are assessed to reduce the risk of injury.
  • assessments are carried out by the managers of the work.
  • managers are competent to conduct the assessment.
Managers and Supervisors

Managers and supervisors are responsible to the Head of Department for the management of the work activities under their control. They must assess the risks of the work under their control which involves manual handling and ensure:

  • the implementation and maintenance of relevant risk control measures.
  • the provision of suitable information, instruction and training.
  • appropriate levels of supervision of staff and students taking into account their experience and skills.
Staff and Graduate Students

Employees must co-operate with their manager or supervisor by:

  • adhering to risk control measures identified in the manual handling risk assessment.
  • reporting any defects or problems.
  • attending training directed by their manager.
  • reporting any condition which might affect their ability to handle loads safely.

Risk assessment

If the risk of injury associated with manual handling operations cannot be dismissed as trivial or insignificant, managers must conduct a risk assessment.

> Further information on risk assessment.

The hazards of manual handling operations can be identified under the following four categories: task; individual capability, load and working environment (TILE). Guidance on what to look for is listed below:


Does the task involve:

  • twisting the trunk.
  • stooping.
  • excessive lifting or lowering distance.
  • holding the load at a distance from the trunk.
  • an incorrect posture by the handler.
  • carrying the load excessive distances.
  • excessive pushing or pulling of the load.
  • a risk of sudden movement of the load.
  • frequent or prolonged physical effort.
  • insufficient rest or recovery periods.
  • handling while seated.
  • team handling.

Does the task:

  • require unusual strength, height etc.
  • put at risk those who are pregnant or those with health problems.
  • require special knowledge or training for its safe performance.

Is the load:

  • too heavy for the individual's capacity.
  • bulky or unwieldy.
  • difficult to grasp i.e. smooth, wet or slippery.
  • unstable or are contents liable to shift.
  • sharp, hot or potentially damaging?

Are there:

  • space constraints preventing good posture.
  • uneven, slippery or unstable floors.
  • variations in the levels of floors or work surfaces.
  • extremes of temperature, humidity, or air movement.
  • poor lighting conditions.

Control measures

Following the same approach using TILE, suggested measures to control the risk are listed below:

  • improve the task layout (e.g. storage of loads at waist height).
  • use the body more efficiently (i.e. reduce or eliminate the need for twisting, stooping or stretching).
  • improve the work routine (e.g. minimise the need for fixed postures, reduce the frequency of handling loads).
  • avoid lifting loads from the floor while seated where possible.
  • introduce safe team handling where it would be difficult or unsafe for one person.
  • where appropriate use personal protective equipment such as gloves, overalls or safety shoes.
  • ensure any handling aids or personal protective equipment is maintained and is accessible.
  • consider new and expectant mothers.
  • consider those with disabilities that may make it difficult to do the task.
  • consider new, young or inexperienced workers.
  • consider those with a history of back trouble, hernia or other medical condition.
  • consider older workers.
  • provide information and appropriate training on the manual handling operation.
  • make it lighter by breaking down loads.
  • make it smaller or easier to manage.
  • make it easier to grasp by providing handles or handgrips.
  • make it more stable by packaging objects so they will not shift.
  • make it less damaging to hold (e.g. avoid sharp edges or corners) and where this is not possible use suitable personal protective equipment.
  • adequately insulate containers of hot or cold materials or where this is not possible use suitable personal protective equipment.
  • there should be adequate room to manoeuvre during manual handling operations.
  • pay particular attention to the condition and nature of the floor surface; spillages should be cleared up promptly.
  • where more than one level is involved, the transition should be made by a gentle slope or well-positioned steps.
  • extremes of temperature and excessive humidity should be avoided where possible.
  • ensure there is adequate lighting.


The following manual handling training courses are provided by Safety Services:

Last updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2020