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Home School documents Safety Manual 14. Manual handling
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School of Physics Safety Manual


Accidents causes by manual handling account for 37% of all reported accidents; most commonly these are sprains or strains particularly of the back. Sprains and strains arise from the incorrect application and/or prolonged use of bodily force. Poor posture and excessive movement are important contributory factors. Many manual handling injuries are cumulative rather than attributed to one single injury. A full recovery is not always made; the result can be physical impairment or even permanent disability.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require the University to assess manual handling operations undertaken by its employees. Heavy, difficult and repetitive loads require a written assessment to be completed. Appropriate steps must be taken to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest level practicable. Contact M Grapes if you consider an assessment is required.

The following points must be considered when making the assessment:

  • The tasks: do they involve holding the load away from the body, twisting, stooping or reaching upwards, excessive movement or insufficient rest breaks?
  • The loads: are they heavy, bulky, unwieldy, difficult to grasp, unstable, hot or cold?
  • The working environment: are there space constraints, uneven or slippery floors, variation in level, extremes of temperature, poor lighting?
  • Individual capacity: does the job:

-          require unusual strength, height etc;

-          create a hazard to those who are pregnant or have a health problem;

-          require information or training?

  • Other factors: is the movement or posture hindered by clothing or personal protective equipment?


Some basic tips to prevent accidents:

  • Assess the object to be moved. Determine its weight and look for sharp edges. Is the weight evenly distributed?
  • Plan the job. Check the route is free of obstacles and slipping or tripping hazards.
  • Get help. If you have any doubt about carrying the object then get help. Check that you have suitable tools to help or lifting aids if necessary.
  • Get a good grip. Decide in advance how best to hold the object.
  • Protect your hands and feet.
  • Lift with your legs.
  • Avoid twisting, move your feet instead.
  • Hold the load close to the centre of your body.
  • Minimise lifts above your shoulders or below your knees.
  • Avoid becoming over-tired. Frequent lifting or lowering is demanding work and can result in cumulative stress.
  • When lifting in a team, work with someone of similar build and height if possible.


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