Manual handling

Always follow safe working practices to help you avoid injuries caused by manual handling.

Manual handling related injuries result in the majority of the work-related injury claims for the University. Many injuries result from the lifting, twisting and movement of objects.

The risk of injury is increased significantly when objects are:

  • Awkward to carry
  • Large and heavy
  • To be positioned or retrieved from a confined area
  • In such a position that repetitive movement or twisting is required
  • Positioned either too low or too high on shelves to manage easily.

For an injured person this can result in severe pain and incapacity, potentially long-term permanent injury, intensive rehabilitation and ongoing treatment, and major disruption to their lives.


These may include:

  • Strains and strains
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Slip, fall and crush injuries
  • Cuts, bruises, broken bones, hernia      
  • Occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) 

Reduce the risk

Design the Task

Redesigning the task to reduce, or even eliminate the need to manually handle hazardous, awkward or heavy loads is often possible by considering:

  • Delivery to point of use
  • Automation
  • Making the loads less hazardous to handle.

Where hazardous loads still need to be handled, take action to reduce the chance of a manual handling injury.

Minimise manual handling injuries

This can be done by:

  • Good workplace planning
  • The use of manual handling equipment. Use mechanical assistance as the appropriate alternative (e.g. trolleys and adjustable height workbenches and seating)
  • Employing good work practices, e.g. team lifting and lifting techniques
  • Being patient and not attempting to lift something beyond your capability.

You should:

  • Reduce the size and weight of loads if the item is heavy
  • Bend with your knees slightly apart and keep your back straight when lifting
  • Eliminate or reduce bending, twisting and reaching movements
  • Push rather than pull a load on a trolley
  • Prevent muscle strain by warming up before working.

Checklist/assessment chart

The Health and Safety Executive in the UK has good guidance and a useful checklist/manual handling assessment chart (the MAC tool) to help prevent injuries.

Look now: Health and Safety Executive's manual handling assessment chart.

More information

Read about office and general work environment safety.

The following websites and documents should also be referred to:

Document Control
Version: 1.0
Last Updated: Dec 2019
Next Review: Dec 2022
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing