The 8 Most Frequently Asked Questions Relating to Manual Handling
As a supplier of intelligent handling solutions offering one of the largest ranges of handling equipment available in the UK, we are frequently asked by our customers how they can protect their employees from the risks of injury caused by manual handling.
Sometimes, the answer isn’t always to invest in handling equipment – a potentially risky situation could be made safer by making changes to the environment, the load or the machinery itself.
We’ve put together a few of the most commonly asked questions regarding manual handling in the workplace along with some general advice about how to ensure that you stay within the law and keep people safe.
Q: What are the recommended weight limits for lifting?
A: There is no maximum weight limit identified by law. There is an extensive range of variables that influence the level of risk and the action that needs to be taken. Influencing factors range from the fitness, strength, size and health of the individual(s) doing the lifting and the weight, shape and size of the object to be lifted to the distance and height to which it needs lifting and other environmental obstacles that need to be negotiated.
Although there is no maximum safe weight for any load, there are basic guideline figures provided in the HSE’s Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) which will help you identify the risks in your workplace and whether or not a risk assessment needs to be carried out as remember – it is the duty of employers to identify, assess, manage and minimise risk in the workplace.
Q: What am I required to do to prevent manual handling injuries?
A: The short answer is that you need to control the risks in the workplace by carrying out a risk assessment.
As an employer, you also need to take into consideration whether investing in a lifting aid could remove the risk altogether for example rather than an employee manually lifting a box and walking it over, could a lifting trolley be used?
If the need for manual lifting can’t be avoided, then the following points can help reduce the risk of injury:
- Making the load smaller or easier to lift.
- Adjusting working practices to reduce the distance for carrying, lifting from floor level or above shoulder height and lifting from or to other awkward angles.
- Changing the working environment to make lifting easier, more efficient and safer.
- Ensuring that the person doing the lifting has received adequate training about how to lift safely and is physically capable of completing the task with minimised risk of injury.
The HSE document ‘Making the best use of lifting and handling aids’ offers advice about the many types of lifting and handling aids available.
Advanced Handling offers the widest range of lifting and handling equipment in the UK. Our advisors are on-hand to help you assess the lifting and handling in your workplace and recommend what lifting aids can help you minimise the risks.
Q: How do I do a risk assessment?
A: There are lots of companies offering training and advice about how to carry out a risk assessment as well as a multitude of information online. You must ensure that you are competent enough before completing a risk assessment on behalf of your organisation.
A series of helpful tools produced by the HSE, the HSE Toolkit for MSD will help you assess some of the risks involved in manual handling.
Q: What does a manual handling training course include?
A: It’s very important to remember that as good as any training is, it is an employer’s responsibility to supplement the training with constant monitoring and supervision to ensure that it has been understood and is being applied.
Training should consist of:
- How injuries occur and risk factors.
- How to use safe handling techniques to reduce risk.
- Lifting methods and techniques specific to the individual’s place of work.
- How to use mechanical aids properly and safely.
- Practical work where the trainer watches the trainee in their usual work environment to ensure that the training is being applied correctly.
Q: What is the law regarding manual handling and protecting employees?
A: To protect employees from the risk of the manual handling of loads, employers have a legal obligation under the MHOR 1992 to make a comprehensive assessment of risk.
These regulations present a hierarchy of measures that need to be followed as set out in regulation 4(1):
- Avoid manual handling activity if possible.
- Assess all risk of injury for manual handling operations that can’t be avoided.
- Reduce the risk as far as is possible.
Q: Can I implement a “No Lifting Policy”?
A: The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 do not endorse “no lifting” policies. However, it’s important to limit manual handling to times when it can’t be avoided and only where risk has been assessed and minimised.
Employers can’t pass on the risk to employees and they should not be required to perform tasks that put them at risk.
Q: What are the regulations regarding the labelling of loads?
A: Employers are required, under regulation 4 of the MHOR, to provide general load weight indications and, as far as is reasonably possible, label the load with the precise weight. If the centre of gravity of the load is not central, then the heaviest side must also be labelled.
The following action is required to meet the provisions of Regulation 4:
- Only label a load if it is reasonably practical to do so and there is a risk of injury.
- If the effort involved in labelling the load is greater than any safety benefits that may result, then
- the load need not be labelled.
- Ask manufacturers to mark weights on loads if this can be easily done.
- Reduce the risk by providing lifting aids or splitting loads.
Q: What are the regulations regarding the pushing and pulling of loads?
A: When trolleys, stackers or other mobile handling equipment is used, the weight of each item is not as relevant to the task. What matters in these circumstances is the force required to move the load. Factors that affect the force required include the equipment itself, (such as wheels and handles), the floor condition and the gradient of the surface.
There is no requirement to give information about force to employees, instead, you need to ensure that you’ve carried out a full risk assessment to ensure all safe practices and training implemented. Here is HSE’s ‘Risk assessment of pushing and pulling‘ tool.
With over 40 years of experience working with organisations needing manual handling solutions, we are well suited to offer practical advice about how to decrease the risk of injury to employees. Our range of equipment is so wide that we can always find a solution to your manual handling requirements and if one doesn’t exist, our speciality is designing and manufacturing bespoke handling equipment to suit your individual requirements.
If in doubt, always consult your company’s health and safety expert or HSE.gov.uk.