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Manual Handling | The 5 Key Principles

Updated: May 6

workers moving a shelving unit

Manual handling is the act of transporting or supporting a load by bodily force or by hand. This includes, carrying, lifting, pushing, pulling and putting down. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, was designed to minimize risk, ensure safety and prevent injury to individuals undertaking manual handling tasks.


In this Article:


The 5 Key Principles of Manual Handling

Below are the 5 key principles of manual handling that can be utilized in the workplace to reduce risk of injury.

1. Plan 

Before carrying out the manual handling task, a TILE assessment must be completed, to ensure the route is free from obstruction, considering the size and shape of the load to be transported, and if the load can be carried by one individual or a team.

Improper planning could result in trips and falls in the workplace if the path is not correctly cleared before transporting the load.

2. Position

The way in which you position your body when carrying out a manual handling task can be vital in ensuring that no injury is sustained. Start by positioning your feet shoulder width distance apart, keeping one foot staggered in front of the other to provide support. Bend your knees, and avoid bending your back. When lifting, place the centre of the object as close to your torso as possible.


3. Pick 

Be sure to keep the load close to your body while lifting, engaging your core muscles and pushing up through your legs to lift. Keep the object being lifted within the ‘Power zone’ between your mid-thigh and mid-chest, meaning your body can lift heavier items with the least amount of effort, reducing the risk of injury.

4. Proceed

Proceed with caution when moving the load from one place to the next. Avoid twisting or moving in awkward positions that could cause injury. If you need to turn, do so with feet first instead of twisting at the waist. Ensure the path ahead is free from obstruction to avoid tripping.

5. Place

When placing the load, do so slowly and smoothly. Lower the load by bending at the knees to place in desired location, avoiding unnecessary strain.


The MHOR 1992 requires employers to ensure that their employees are working as safely as possible within their sector of work.

This regulation sits alongside other relevant legislations as reviewed by the Health and Safety Commission including:

  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

These regulations outline the duties that employers have to protect employees from the risk of injury when carrying out manual handling tasks.

Hierarchy Measures

The Manual Handling Regulations set out a clear hierarchy of measures you must follow to prevent and manage the risks from hazardous manual handling in the workplace:

  1. Avoid: Potentially hazardous manual handling tasks where possible.

  2. Assess: The risk of injury to employees from hazardous manual handling tasks that cannot be avoided.

  3. Reduce: The risk of injury to employees is as low as possible when carrying out manual handling tasks.


man wearing gloves fixing steel rebar

Importance of Grip

When carrying out a manual handling task it is vital to have the correct grip on the load you are carrying to prevent potential strain and injury. If you are not comfortable with the grip you have when manually handling something, you should either find a mechanical aid to transport the item, or find a way to reduce the weight of the load and make 2 trips. 

These are the different types of gloves used in the UK and what type of resistance they provide:

Glove Standard

Intended Use


Chemical hazard Protection


Mechanical Hazard Protection


Thermal Hazard Protection


Radioactive Contamination & Ionising Radiation


Single-use Medical Gloves


Cold Hazard Protection


Knife Protection


Welding Gloves


Protection from Electrical Risks

One way to ensure that your grip is appropriate when carrying a load is to wear the appropriate gloves. Most standard work gloves have a rubber or nitrile coating on the palm and fingers, this gives you a much more firm grip of the object than simply carrying something with your bare hands.


Reducing the Risk of Cuts

Encountering items that are sharp, abrasive or slippery is a common occurrence when handling objects in construction. Gloves add an additional barrier between you and the item you're carrying which reduces the chance of being cut. This is important as if you are carrying something and it cuts your hand in the process you are likely to react by reducing your grip which could cause you to drop the item.

Some forms of gloves such as cut resistant gloves (EN388 & EN1082) are made from very tough woven fabrics such as Kevlar and steel. These types of gloves are Ideal for working in places with a risk of coming into contact with a sharp surface such as Steel or metal related manufacturing environments.

Before carrying out the task be sure to follow the TILE assessment checklist.

Max Safe Lifting Limit for Men and Women

The Manual Handling Regulations do not set specific weight limits for individuals carrying out manual handling tasks. However there are guidelines that are offered to avoid risk of injury.

The guidelines have been compiled from lifting capacity data that shows differences in men and women, giving different weight guidelines for both:

Maximum Safe Lifting Limit for Men - 25kg

Maximum Safe Lifting Limit for Women - 16kg


Injuries Caused by Manual Handling

In 2022/23 there were an estimated 473,000 workers that suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the UK. The main causes being, manual handling, repetitive action and awkward working positions. 

The most common types of injury caused by manual handling are:

  1. Back injuries

  2. Neck & Shoulder injuries

  3. Sprains and Strains

  4. Musculoskeletal disorders

  5. Hand injuries

  6. Crushing injuries

  7. Slips, trips and falls

  8. Cuts


Lifting and Lowering risk diagram

The Lifting and Lowering Risk Filter

The Lifting and Lowering Risk filter “assumes that the load is easily grasped with both hands and is handled in reasonable working conditions, with the worker in a stable body position.”

Each box contains a value for lifting and lowering in that area of your body, and is reduced in areas where arms are extended or above the shoulders and below the waist as this is where injuries are most likely to happen when completing a manual handling task.

Encouraging workers to follow the guidelines from HSE will help to prevent injuries. Workers should report any signs of MSD’s early so that the risk of a long term injury can be reduced. When carrying out manual handling activities, employers and employees should remember the 5 key principles that will allow them to effectively assess tasks along with any risks that may arise, so that they are able to work safely and efficiently.


Frequently Asked Questions

Manual Handling in care refers to the act of moving a person on object using human force, the control measures for manual handling in care are slightly different for those in other industries such as construction, this is due to the fact it is often required to move people physically in care roles.

What does TILE stand for in Manual Handling?

What Percentage of RIDDOR Reportable Accidents are Caused by Manual Handling?


a link to a manual handling training course



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