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Manual handling loadsDid you know that incorrect manual handling causes over a third of all workplace injuries? These include work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and backs. This accounts for significant sickness absence amongst the UK workforce.

In so many cases, minor bad habits simply go unnoticed for years as cumulative damage occurs. Put simply, if what you are lifting is simply too heavy for your body to handle or you are carrying a heavy load, poor posture can damage your back. Nor just lifting, but stooping or twisting can make your back more vulnerable to injury too.

The term ‘manual handling’ covers a wide variety of activities and falls under The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) which apply to all work which involves lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying, using our hands or bodily force. The introduction of these regulations required employers to ensure ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ that employees should not be asked to carry out manual handling work where there is a risk of being injured. Where such work is necessary, employers were required to make an assessment of the risks involved, take any appropriate steps required to ensure that risks are kept to a minimum.

Employers have a duty to protect workers from the risks of developing pain and injuries caused by their work. There are things that both employers and their workers can do to manage back pain in the workplace:


  • Where reasonably practicable, avoid work activities that can cause back pain
  • Where the activity can’t be avoided, assess it to see what you can do to reduce the risk of back pain and complete a risk assessment
  • Apply the control measures you have identified and monitor and review them to make sure they are working
  • Get the opinions of employees and, if they have health and safety concerns, do something about them

Some work tasks can cause back pain or make existing pain worse, they usually involve manual handling, such as; lifting heavy or bulky load, carrying loads awkwardly, possibly one-handed, pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads

Employers can reduce the risk of back pain in the workplace by identifying what activities can cause back pain and decide whether they can be changed or avoided, such as; think about how you can make jobs physically easier, like by moving loads on wheels instead of manually, for example, using lifting aids that are properly maintained.

People with back pain often recover completely if the problem is recognised early and treated appropriately. The NHS website has tips on how to treat back pain.

Our Manual Handling of Loads course programme employs a variety of teaching techniques to meet the needs of individual delegates and includes the following:


  • Predisposing factors of musculoskeletal injuries
  • Postural awareness and static loading
  • Spinal awareness
  • Principles of safer handling

If any of these tasks are not carried out appropriately there is a risk of injury. Ensure you have a manual handling risk assessment in place and anyone involved in the moving and handling of loads/goods (including moving people) could be at risk of injury. There are risks in handling even light loads if the task is repetitive or is being carried out in poor conditions. We often find that employers are simply failing to assess the risk involved or providing inadequate ‘generic’ assessments.  In addition to placing employees at risk, in many cases, employers are failing to comply with their legal duties.

Training must also be fit for purpose, that is to say, reflect the types of work activity undertaken by employees.  Take time to develop programmes that meet specific needs, avoid simply ticking the ‘we’ve provided manual handling training box’ and moving on.  For example, if staff member’s job involves strenuous pushing and pulling activities, or they spend hours adopting fixed, static and sustained postures at workstations – why teach them to pick up a box?

To book one of our Manual Handling courses visit our open courses page on our website or contact us to discuss your specific needs in more detail.

Whatever your training needs, give us a call today 0117 958 2070 or e-mail us