OHS 1.12 Manual Handling Supervisor/Engineer

This training describes what you may need to do to protect yourself from the risk of injury through manual handling.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992 as amended in 2002 apply to a wide range of manual handling activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, or carrying. The load may be either animate, such as a person or an animal, or inanimate, such as a box or a trolley.

Incorrect manual handling is one of the most common causes of injuries at work. Taking the action described in this training will help prevent these issues but it wont prevent all.

It is essential to report any symptoms as soon as possible.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations require employers to:

  • Avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • Assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided; and
  • Reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employees have duties too. They should:

  • Follow systems of work in place for safety;
  • Use equipment provided for their safety properly;
  • Cooperate with their employer if they identify hazardous handling activities;
  • Inform their employer if they identify hazardous handling activities;
  • Take care to make sure their activities do not put others at risk.


Manual handling can result in fatigue, and lead to injuries of the back, neck, shoulders, arms or other body parts.

Two groups of injuries may result from manual handling:

  1. Cuts, bruises, fractures etc, due to sudden, unexpected events such as Accidents
  2. Damage to the musculoskeletal system of the body (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, bursa, blood vessels and nerves) as a consequence of gradual and cumulative wear and tear through repetitive manual handling. These injuries are called ‘musculoskeletal disorders’ (MSDs) and can be further divided into 3 groups:
  • Lower limb disorders
  • Neck and upper limb disorders
  • Back pain and back injuries.

Work-related low back pain and low back injuries are the most common kind of musculoskeletal disorders caused by manual handling. These work-related low back disorders are a significant and increasing problem in Europe.

About 25% of European workers consider that their work affects their health in the form of back pain, which tops the list of all reported work-related disorders.

The highest proportion of such workers (28-47%) is found in agriculture, construction, transport and communication sectors.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders due to manual handling (e.g. low back disorders) may have serious consequences to workers, and may restrict their ability to undertake a wide range of work and leisure activities for the remainder of their lives - Prevention is vital.


Check whether you need to move it at all.

  • Does a large work-piece really need to be moved, or can the activity (e.g. wrapping or machining) be done safely where the item already is?
  • Can raw materials be delivered directly to their point of use.

Consider automation and using handling aids.

  • A conveyor;
  • A pallet truck;
  • An electric or hand-powered hoist;
  • A lift truck

Note: Lift trucks must be suited to the work and have properly trained operators.

Controlling the risks

Think about how accidents and ill health could happen and concentrate on real risks – those that are most likely and which will cause most harm.

  • Think about your workplace activities and what injuries or harm they could cause.
  • Ask your supervisor/co-workers what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.
  • Check manufacturers’ instructions for equipment used as they can be very helpful in spelling out hazards.
  • Consider any special circumstances, for example, new and young workers, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers, disabled, temporary workers, contractors and lone workers may be at particular risk.

Actions to be considered to control or reduce risks include the following:

If the task involves:

Holding loads away from the body can you use a lifting aid?

Twisting, stooping or reaching can you improve the workplace layout to reduce stooping and reaching?

A large vertical movement can you avoid lifting from floor level or above shoulder height?

A long carrying distance can you reduce the carrying distance?

Repetitive handling can you vary the work, allowing one set of muscles to rest while the other is used?

If the loads are:

Heavy or bulky can they be broken up?

Difficult to grasp can they be made easier to grasp using handles or similar?

Unstable or awkwardly stacked can it be make stable before moving?

Too large to see over can it be made smaller?

If the load comes from elsewhere can you ask the supplier to help? E.g. by providing handles or using smaller packages?

For Handling Aids and Equipment

Check the device is the correct type for the job.

Make sure it is well maintained.

Wheels or rollers are suitable and run freely.

Handles are between the waist and the shoulder.

Are there brakes and do they work? Have you checked?

Safe lifting

There are times when items will have to be lifted manually, and a good lifting technique will reduce the risk of injury.

Watch the video below on the Six Steps for Safe Lifting

Six Steps

  1. Plan the lift.
  2. Position yourself over the load.
  3. Grip the load securely.
  4. Lift the load keeping it close to the body.
  5. Move straight ahead - avoid twisting the back or leaning sideways.
  6. Lower the load safely.

Pushing and Pulling

Handling Devices

Aids such as barrows and trolleys should have handle heights that are between the shoulder and waist. Devices should be well maintained with wheels that run smoothly. The law requires that equipment is maintained.


As a rough guide the amount of force that needs to be applied to move a load over a flat, level surface using a well-maintained handling aid is at least 2% of the load weight. For example, if the load weight is 400 kg, then the force needed to move the load is 8 kg. The force needed will be larger, perhaps a lot larger, if conditions are not perfect (eg wheels not in the right position or a device that is poorly maintained). The operator should try to push rather than pull when moving a load, provided they can see over it and control steering and stopping.


Employees should get help from another worker whenever necessary, if they have to negotiate a slope or ramp, as pushing and pulling forces can be very high. For example, if a load of 400 kg is moved up a slope of 1 in 12 (about 5°), the required force is over 30 kg even in ideal conditions – good wheels and a smooth slope. This is above the guideline weight for men and well above the guideline weight for women.

Uneven surface

Moving an object over soft or uneven surfaces requires higher forces. On an uneven surface, the force needed to start the load moving could increase to 10% of the load weight, although this might be offset to some extent by using larger wheels. Soft ground may be even worse.

Stance and Pace

To make it easier to push or pull, employees should keep their feet well away from the load and go no faster than walking speed.

There is no such thing as a completely ‘safe’ manual handling operation. But working within the following guidelines will cut the risk and reduce the need for a more detailed assessment.

Risk Assessment

Use this diagram to make a quick and easy assessment. Each box contains a guideline weight for lifting and lowering in that zone. (As you can see, the guideline weights are reduced if handling is done with arms extended, or at high or low levels, as that is where injuries are most likely to happen.)

Observe the work activity you are assessing and compare it to the diagram. First, decide which box or boxes the lifter’s hands pass through when moving the load. Then, assess the maximum weight being handled. If it is less than the figure given in the box, the operation is within the guidelines.

If the lifter’s hands enter more than one box during the operation, use the smallest weight. Use an in-between weight if the hands are close to a boundary between boxes.

The guideline weights assume that the load is readily grasped with both hands and that the operation takes place in reasonable working conditions, with the lifter in a stable body position.

Using Figure 1 is a first step. If it shows the manual handling is within the guideline figures (bearing in mind the reduced limits for twisting and frequent lifts) you do not need to do any more in most cases. But you will need to make a more detailed assessment if:

  • The conditions given for using the guidelines (e.g. that the load can be readily grasped) are not met;
  • The person doing the lifting has reduced capacity, e.g. through ill health or pregnancy;
  • The person doing the lifting has reduced capacity, e.g. through ill health or pregnancy;
  • The handling operation must take place with the hands beyond the boxes in the diagram; or
  • The guideline figures in the diagram are exceeded.

These guidelines and tables can be downloaded by clicking the button below.

Pushing and Pulling

The task is within the guidelines if the figures in the table are not exceeded.

For pushing and pulling, you should make a more detailed assessment if:

  • There are extra risk factors like uneven floors or constricted spaces
  • The worker can't push or pull the load with their hands between waist and shoulder height
  • The load has to be moved for more than 20m without a break
  • The guidelines are exceeded.

This completes the presentation. Please click on the button below to go to your assessment.


Created with images by terimakasih0 - "fork lift truck fork truck truck" • JaxStrong - "Corps Deputy Commanding General visits south Florida project sites"

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