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8 Manual Handling Techniques to Avoid Injury

Updated: May 6

2 men installing windows

In order to lift heavy objects safely it is vital that proper manual handling technique and form are used in order to reduce the chance of injury. Factors such as planning, posture, grip and distance from the load can greatly increase the safety of carrying out manual handling tasks.


Table of Contents


What are Manual Handling Techniques?

Manual Handling techniques are used in order to help workers reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. These techniques take into consideration the anatomy of humans and what we are capable of. Some people are capable of lifting more weight safely than others so it is important that these techniques can apply to everyone regardless of their strength or stature.

TILE is also a helpful acronym to remember when carrying out manual handling tasks, it lays out the process that should be followed in order to reduce risks of manual handling activities.

One in 3 accidents at work are the result of manual handling, in the UK alone this puts the figure at around 300,000 people suffering from back pain as a result of a manual handling injury at work.


8 Techniques to Reduce the Chance of Injury

1. Planning the Lift

Before carrying out any kind of manual handling task it is important to assess weather moving the object by hand is the most feasible way of carrying out the task. Also you should be aware of the route you are going to take and any points at which you think you may need to stop for a rest. You should be comfortable handling the object and make sure it is in a safe condition to be transported so that in the event of a fall you wont be pierced or injured in any way by the items you're carrying.

2. Assessing the Weight

Firstly the weight of the item should be within the safe lifting weight set through HSE Guidelines. Making sure you are comfortable with the weight of the item you're carrying is vital, just because you can lift something off the ground, this does not mean you can transport the item safely over distance. If you are struggling to manage the weight you are holding, chances are that it is too heavy for you to safely handle manually.

3. Positioning of the Feet

Your feet should be in a comfortable position with a wide stance in order to keep yourself extra stable. Ideally your feet should be facing the direction you are travelling when you pick the object up so that there is no need to twist or change direction once you've picked the item up.

4. Proper Posture

Proper posture is crucial when using manual handling technique as this will prevent both short and long term strains. Bending from the knees is preferred when lifting from the ground as this help avoid unnecessary pressure on the back and spine. Your shoulders and feet should be pointing in the same direction when carrying out the initial lift and any sort of twisting motion should be avoided in order to reduce the stress placed on your back and core muscles.

5. Good Grip

When using manual handling technique good grip is important as it reduces the risk of dropping and damaging the item you are carrying. Before you fully commit to moving an object you should check that you are able to comfortable keep hold of it over the duration of the distance you're traveling. Most work gloves nowadays come with a rubber palm and fingers to stop items from slipping out of your hands. If you're using gloves that don't have any grip, such as cut resistance gloves, it may be wise to swap them for some nitrile coated grip gloves for the duration of the lift.

6. Smooth Lift

Once you've established that you can handle the weight, and maintain good grip of the item, you should focus on keeping a stable speed in when lifting the item up from the ground. Any sudden jerks in motion will increase your chance of injury and fatigue. Also keep in mind that you should be lifting your chin as you travel from a squat to an upright position to avoid hunching over.

7. Distance from the Load

When picking the object up you should be able to place your feet next to the item so that you are not having to overreach, pull the item closer to you if safe to do so. Ideally the load you are carrying should be kept as close to your torso as possible, the further away from your body the item is, the harder it will be for you to handle. Keeping the object close to your body will also aid in helping you balance and avoid any unnecessary strain on the back and arms. If the load is uneven, make sure the heaviest side is closest to you as this will help with stability and reduce the chances of you dropping the load.

8. Use Mechanical Aids Where Possible

If you have access to mechanical aid equipment it is advised that you use this before attempting to use any manual lifts, after all the greatest way to avoid injury from manual handling is to avoid using the body. Hoists are very common in care settings to move people, the same is true for hand pallet trucks in distribution settings, this is because the item is often too heavy and awkward shaped for the worker to move safely.


The Importance of Manual Handling Training

Manual Handling Training has its benefits for both workers and employers. Firstly proper training can ensure the worker has the knowledge required to assess weather they are capable of carrying out the lift and also give them the proper techniques required to move the object from A to B.

Manual Handling Training also gives the employer knowledge that their staff are trained and competent to carry out the task they have been assigned. This ensures employers are complying with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR). In the event that the employee chooses not to use proper technique when lifting an object and injures themselves, the employer will have shown that they have provided the adequate training for the worker and have maintained compliance with UK manual handling legislation.

manual handling course card


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Maximum Safe Lifting Weight in the UK?

What is the Percentage of Injuries caused by Manual Handling?

What Should You do if You are Hurt Whilst Doing any Manual Handling




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