Manual handling

Information and guidance on how to control the risks involved in manual handling

Controlling manual handling risks

Once you have identified the hazards, you must determine how best to control them, for example:

  • use a mechanical aid to help you lift and move the load. Make sure that they have been maintained and kept in good working condition
  • make changes to the working area to reduce the distance travelled with the load and the need for twisting or bending
  • reduce the need for lifting from floor level or above shoulder height. Remember that it is better to push rather than pull the load
  • assess the workplace to ensure that there are no obstructions (including doors), the flooring is adequate and that there is enough lighting to carry out the task safely
  • provide frequent breaks to ensure that muscles can rest
  • ask suppliers to reduce the size or weight of loads or to add handles to make it easier to grasp
  • make sure the load is stable
  • use the HSE booklet Manual Handling at Work: a brief guide (external site) – it offers guidelines on the weights a reasonably fit individual should be capable of carrying. It should be used as guidance and not maximum weight limits. Remember the assessment should consider more than just the weight of an object
  • you can use the HSE ART Tool (external site) for repetitive tasks
  • think about the individual, especially those who might be vulnerable to injuries, such as pregnant workers, young people or those with a pre-existing health condition
  • when teamwork is required, make sure that is well organised and you take appropriate measures to reduce the risk of injury


It’s a legal requirement that your employees are trained and competent in everything they do, including manual handling. However, it’s equally important that you consider the use of mechanical aids and assess the task, before introducing manual handling training as a control measure.

Handling aids

Mechanical handling aids can reduce the risk of injury when used correctly. Even simple aids such as trolleys, sack trucks and wheelbarrows can be used to move items and reduce the likelihood of injury.

It is better to push rather than pull, and to use bodyweight and leg muscles to do the work. You also need to ensure the load is kept under control, particularly on slopes.

In some cases, more sophisticated manual handling aids may be required, such as cranes, hoists, pallet trucks, conveyors and forklift trucks. You need to remember that handling aids might eliminate many of the manual handling risks, although their use will introduce other risks and these must be assessed.

Additionally, some regulations require that many of these items receive a periodic statutory inspection on some of their components.

For more information, please read our sections on workplace inspections and equipment maintenance.

Lifting and handling in teams

Team lifting is sometimes used to reduce manual handling risks – however, it needs to be co-ordinated properly.

You should try and make sure that those lifting are around the same height and build. Also, you should ensure that one person is responsible for giving instructions and co-ordinating the activity. This will help make sure everyone lifts, moves off, stops and places the load down at the same time.

Lifting in teams does not mean that the weight of the load can be doubled for each extra person in the team. For example, for a lifting team of 2, the load should only be increased by two-thirds of the total each person can lift.

This means that if the risk assessment decided that it was all right for 1 person to lift a load of 20kg, using 2 people would mean that the load should not exceed around 26.6kg (13.3kgs pers person) – not that it's all right to lift a load of 40kg.

More detailed information on team manual handling can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.