manual handling legislation

Manual Handling Legislation: The Key Points You Should Know

Manual handling is one of the leading causes of workplace injury.

Approximately 8.9 million days were lost through musculoskeletal disorders in 2016/17.

No wonder the Health and Safety Executive has made tackling MSDs a priority over the previous few years.

By meeting manual handling legislation, you can take a big step in reducing injuries to your employees.

So, we’ve created this post which will summarise the critical information contained within these regulations.

Knowing this, you’ll understand what you can do to work safer in your business.

But first, let’s start by defining ‘Manual Handling’.

Manual Handling Definition

Most people consider manual handling as lifting heavy objects from one place to another.

But it’s considered more than just lifting.

Activities such as pushing and pulling are also included.

Moreover, it isn’t just “heavy” items.

It can be ANY load – heavy or light.

If you look at the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, it will define a manual handling activity as:

“…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or more moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force”

And, how does this cause so many injuries?

Watch this video where our trainer, Mark, explains how injuries occur.

With this in mind, we shall look at the legislation that covers manual handling activities.

Manual Handling Legislation

Currently, two pieces of legislation place duties on employers and employees with regards to manual handling:

We will now take a greater look into the contents of each.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

Manual handling legislation Infographic

Employers Duties – The Risk Control Hierarchy

Within this legislation, employers face certain duties to ensure they protect employees from injury.

Employers should avoid manual handling activities where “reasonably practicable.

Therefore, you can eliminate any risk.

For example, using a forklift to move a pallet rather than an employee moving individual boxes.

However, avoiding all manual handling operations is impractical.

Enter stage two of the hierarchy.

Employers must make suitable and sufficient assessments of manual handling activities

As you may have guessed, this does mean compiling a risk assessment or risk assessments (depending on how many manual handling operations your business may undertake).

These will inform your decisions made in stage 3 of the hierarchy.

Employers must try to reduce the risk of injury and illness where reasonably practicable.

You’ve conducted your assessments, now it is time to act.

Every measure should be taken (where reasonable to do so) to prevent injury from manual handling activities.

Additional Duties

  • Employees should be provided with general indications and, where reasonably practicable, precise information on the weight of a load and the heaviest side of a load (if the centre of gravity is not central). Find answers to common questions relating to weights of loads on the HSE website>>
  • Assessments should be reviewed when they are suspected to be invalid or there has been a significant change in operations.

Employees Duties

It is easy to forget that employees aren’t exempt from responsibility.

Employees must follow the systems of work put in place by their employer.

Let’s move on to the sections of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that apply to manual handling activities.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The HASAW act outlines the general health and safety duties placed on employers and employees in the workplace.

In fact, section 2 states,

“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Additionally, there are other sections which are relevant to manual handling such as:

  • Employers have a duty to make arrangements for ensuring the safety and absence of risk to health in connection when using, handling, storaging and transporting substances.
  • Employers must provide suitable and sufficient information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure the safety of their employees.

One way you may wish to reduce your risk is through training employees.

So, we will now look at what good manual handling training involves.

Manual Handling Training

Whether it is in-house or through an external provider, manual handling training is a great way of reducing the risk posed to your employees.

So, what does good training involve?

Topics that should make up your training include:

  • Legal duties of employers and employees in the workplace
  • The risk control hierarchy
  • Potential high-risk activities
  • Manual handling risk assessments
  • Reducing the risk of injury
  • Practical manual handling techniques (including singular person and team lifting)

Bear in mind, that the best training makes discusses content relevant to the load, individual, task, and environment involved.

In fact, the HSE have recently urged businesses not to invest in generic, off-the-shelf style manual handling courses. Furthering the need for onsite courses in the future. Check out this press release from them!

Manual Handling Training HSE

Note: No amount of training can overcome the lack of mechanical aids; unsuitable load and/or bad working conditions.


High numbers of injuries relating to manual handling make it important that businesses meet the current regulations.

Therefore, manual handling legislation is a need to know subject.

After reading this article, you are in a better position to put policies in place to better protect your workforce.

Got a question? Leave it in the comments and we will get back to you with an answer.