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What is the Manual Handling Legislation in the UK?

Updated: May 7

two managers talking in a warehouse

The Main Manual Handling Legislation in the UK is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR). The regulations set out the requirements for employers to manage the risks from manual handling activities.


In this Article:


Manual Handling Defined

Manual handling is the term used when the heavy lifting or transportation of objects is required in the workplace. In the care sector, manual handling often refers to the movement and lifting of residents who are unable to move themselves and need support during everyday tasks.

In other workplaces that involve labour or construction for example, manual handling may also include the lifting of heavy objects and handling machinery and equipment. In both instances, there is manual handling legislation advised by the HSE to help prevent injuries or accidents at work and ensure the safety of both employees and the residents during all tasks.

Alternative Definition in the Care Sector.

Also known as ‘moving and handling’ in care homes to specify that it is elderly people that need to be moved safely, there is training and risk assessments involved in manual handling to ensure all employees learn how to safely move heavy objects or people without causing harm.


How Many Pieces of Legislation Cover Manual Handling in Great Britain?

There are 5 pieces of core of legislation that cover manual handling operations in the UK and include the following:

This legislation associated with manual handling provides very important rules that help to keep workers safe in the workplace.

This information will highlight the responsibilities and duties for both employers and employees and the HSE guidelines will require training and refreshers every few years to ensure the knowledge and equipment is still up to standard for everyone.


legal paperwork

What Does the Manual Handling Legislation Include?

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act is designed to ensure health and safety in the workplace is effectively managed by employers by implementing certain responsibilities and duties.

“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”.

In particular “arrangements for ensuring safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances”

and “the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision”. (1)

This means that employees who perform manual handling tasks must not be put at risk of harm when completing the task and must be provided with sufficient training to ensure health and safety at work.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR)

In this regulation is the main legislation governing manual handling, these regulations state “each employer shall

(a) so far as is reasonably practicable, avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured; or

(b) where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured

Additional Steps to Follow

If the manual handling operation is not avoidable there are the following guidelines provided by HSE to provide further steps to follow:

(i) make a suitable and sufficient assessment of all such manual handling operations to be undertaken by them,

(ii) take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury to those employees,

(iii) take appropriate steps to provide any of those employees who are undertaking any such manual handling operations with general indications of the weight of the load.”

This regulation also states the duties of employees which includes:

  • Follow the safe working guidance provided

  • Use the equipment correctly

  • Inform the employer of any risks identified

  • Avoid putting others at risk during manual handling tasks

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

This regulation focuses more on the risks associated with any manual handling tasks that must be assessed prior to the task. This considers the risks to employees, external contractors, members of the public and anyone else involved or nearby during the manual handling tasks.

“Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of

(a) The risks to health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed while they are at work.

(b) The risks to health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him or his undertaking.” (3)

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

PUWER is used to regulate all types of equipment used by employees in the workplace and gives the following 3 pieces of guidance:

  1. Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided.

  2. In selecting work equipment, every employer shall have regard to the working conditions and to the risks to the health and safety of persons which exist in the premises or undertaking in which that work equipment is to be used and any additional risk posed by the use of that work equipment.

  3. Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is used only for operations and under conditions which it is suitable.

  4. “Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

Simply put, the regulation ensures that all equipment is suitable for use in the correct working conditions, used safely by fully trained employees and the equipment is regularly maintained to ensure all that use it are safe with reduced risk of injury.

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)

This regulation focuses on lifting equipment specifically, both for heavy objects and persons.

“Every employer shall ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is—

(a) Properly planned by a competent person;

(b) Appropriately supervised; and

(c) Carried out in a safe manner” (5)

The regulation also states that all lifting equipment must be fit for purpose, suitably marked and appropriate for the task in hand. Maintenance must be provided regularly to assess any risks and report any defects.

The regulation also requires regular, thorough examination and inspection of lifting equipment.

“Every employer shall ensure that before lifting equipment is put into service for the first time by him it is thoroughly examined for any defect.”

The equipment must be inspected at regular intervals; for lifting people every 6 months and lifting objects every 12 months.

If a defect is identified, the employer and equipment owner must be notified immediately and the lifting equipment is not to be used until the defect is fixed.

three warehouse operatives using a pallet truck


What do the Regulations say about Manual Handling Assessors

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992 states that assessors should be competent and have appropriate experience and knowledge of manual handling operations.

Although there is no specific certification required for assessors, they should have a good understanding of risk management and bodily mechanics.

Formal training should be provided to assessors to ensure their competence, otherwise a background in occupational health will also prove the assessors knowledge.


When Did Manual Handling Regulations Come Into Force?

The manual handling operation regulations came into force on 1st January 1993 as part of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. It was then amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002.

The regulation provides guidelines on how to assess and reduce the risk of injury to employees and other members of the public during the completion of manual handling tasks.


Manual Handling Risk Assessment

A manual handling risk assessment must be carried out to ensure the health and safety of all employees in the workplace. A manual handling assessor must be fully trained and competent and regularly perform risk assessments to identify any hazards and implement plans to reduce the risk of injury.

In Great Britain anyone who performs manual handling tasks are at risk of injury and it is the employers responsibility to ensure that the risks are identified and managed correctly to avoid injuries. An individual risk assessment should cover all elements including:

Task – check what the task involves such as lifting, pushing, pulling and how it may affect the worker such as sudden movements, bending and twisting.

Individual – consider each individual’s physical capacity and take into account injuries, disabilities or impairments that can affect their performance.

Load – determine the weight and movement of the load and assess the risk of manual handling.

Environment – check the conditions of the working environment such as the floor conditions, space, levels, lighting and trip hazards.

A risk assessment should be performed every time there is a new employee, an accident or injury has occurred, or at regular intervals to ensure potential risks are always assessed to prioritise the health and safety of all employees.

A generic risk assessment considers various factors including the setting and work environment, the equipment needs, staffing and the type and frequency of manual handling tasks.


In Summary

The manual handling legislations are essential guidelines to help keep employees safe in the workplace when lifting heavy objects and operating lifting equipment and machinery.

Businesses must follow the guidelines and regularly provide employees with training of the equipment and undertake risk assessments to ensure workers are always safe at work.

a link to a manual handling course



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