Precautions you can take and legal obligations you must follow when requiring employees to engage in manual handling tasks
Any activity that requires an individual to lift, move or support a load is classified as a manual handling task. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 define it as 'any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force'.
Follow these basic principles of manual handling when dealing with basic manual handling tasks.
Pre task checks: ensure that the object is light enough to lift, is stable and unlikely to shift or move. Also make sure that the route is clear and that there is somewhere to put the load down wherever it is to be moved to.
Positioning your feet: Keep your feet apart, giving a balanced and stable base for lifting (tight skirts and unsuitable footwear make this difficult). Your leading leg should be as far forward as is comfortable and, if possible, pointing in the direction you intend to go.
Adopting a good posture: When lifting from a low level, bend your knees. Keep your back straight, maintaining its natural curve. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips.
Getting a firm grip: Try to keep your arms within the boundary formed by your legs. When holding on to something, a hook grip is less tiring than keeping your fingers straight. If you need to change your grip as you continue to lift the object, do this as smoothly as possible.
Keeping close to the load: Keep the load close to your body for as long as possible, with the heaviest side of the load towards you. If you can't get close to the load at first, slide it towards you before you try to lift it.
Lifting smoothly: Raise your chin as you begin the lift, keeping control of the load.
Moving your feet: If you have to turn, move your feet - don't twist your trunk.
Putting it down, then adjusting it: If you need to put the load in a particular position, put it down first, then slide it into the desired position.
For information on workplace health, safety and wellbeing, contact your local health board team