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15th March 2017

Manual Handling – have you considered the risk?


Accidents from poor manual handling techniques is attributed to around 30% of all accidents in the UK and approximately 11% of all manual handling accidents in the UK are within health and social care settings totalling 3,770 cases.

It is a misconception that manual handling is synonymous with trades people moving heavy loads, in fact it can be a very light load like removing a plate from a cupboard or picking a piece of paper up that fell off the desk. Manual handling is something we all do every day, from getting out of bed to putting the kettle on, to washing clothes to moving the wheelie bin on collection day.

Clearly there are many examples of manual handling and given the many applications within the health and social care sector, from changing bedding in a care home , to supporting a vulnerable adult with limited capacity to get dressed or even maintaining a good standard of personal hygiene through a care worker assisting a client with washing, it is not surprising accident rates are high.

What is manual handling?

Manual handling comes under the Manual Handling Operation Regulations 2002 which is defined as:

“The transporting or supporting of a load, including the lifting, lowering, putting down, pushing, carrying or moving, by hand or by bodily force.”

In other words, the application of manual handling requires bodily force to get a load from where it is to where it needs to be. Even putting a ream of paper in the printer involves the application of manual handling via picking it up, moving to the printer, opening the tray, to placing in the tray.

As every item that is moved varies in size, weight, shape, load distribution and can be a liquid or solid, makes some loads difficult to hold and balance. With such variations like twisting, bending, stretching up and awkward posture, injury can strike at any time.

The cost of injury?

Injuries come in many forms, not just the lower back through incorrect lifting causing muscle sprains, but trapped fingers through incorrect hold and placing down of objects, and cuts from sharp edges. Given the number of recorded manual handling accidents which cause injury this has a huge cost to the health and social care sector. Every £1 to £8 spent on an accident, the overall cost, most of which is hidden cost (not immediately visible), can amount to as much as £36. There needs to be ways to reduce this figure through training and use of control measures.

The impact on social care through sickness absence only adds pressure to already stretched services with limited resources. The wider impact is on families of the injured staff member who in some cases may not be able to work due to the seriousness of those injuries.

Risk reduction measures?

Whilst the likelihood of a manual handling injury cannot be totally removed, training is a key factor in driving the implementation of correct manual handling techniques through the correct use of legs, arms and back. Added to training is the use of control measures like the use of hoists to assist vulnerable adults out of and into beds, chairs, baths etc. It's important to state that any equipment used to limit the likelihood of injury required training in their correct used prior to using such equipment.

So, what is the employer’s duty legally?

The key piece of legislation is The Manual Handling Operations Regulation 1992 Section 4 (1) which requires 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;
  • Reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.

The regulations were amended in 2002 known as Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002. Regulation 2 has been changed to reflect an amendment to section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 relating to the self-employed. This places the responsibility on the self-employed people for their safety. However, the employer would be responsible if the self-employed person did this for tax purposes only thus was technically employed by the employer.

Further information

The Manual Handling Regulations 1992 L23 (fourth edition 2016)

Health and Safety Statistics, Annual Report for Great Britain, 2013/14

Handling injuries in Great Britain, 2014

Manual Handling at Work (a brief guide by HSE) L143

QCS Systems

QCS provide a range of policies and procedures, templates etc to support your service in meeting the requirements of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Dave Bennion

Health and Safety Specialist

Dave is a multi-sited safety practitioner with extensive experienced in health and safety, fire safety, environmental management, quality and lean management consulting in a variety of industry setting. Dave is also the Director of DGB Health and Safety Ltd based in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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