A Guide to Manual Handling Techniques

A Guide to Manual Handling Techniques

Good manual handling techniques form an essential part of workplace health and safety. For employees engaged in tasks such as lifting, moving and carrying heavy loads, mastering manual handling techniques is important, so that risks and manual handling injuries can be avoided.

What are Manual Handling Techniques?

Manual handling techniques refer to the proper methods of moving or supporting a load by hand or bodily force. They are essential in preventing risks that can lead to workplace injuries. Employees need manual handling training in order to know how to use the best manual handling techniques for lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and manipulating objects by hand, which do not cause risks to their bodies and well-being. 

For whichever manual handling activity, good manual handling techniques are key, and they range from maintaining a stable posture for the body, practising proper body mechanics like keeping the load close to the body and using mechanical aids such as pallet jacks and trolleys to transport heavier loads. 

employee moving a box with a pallet jack

Why use Manual Handling Techniques?

Manual handling techniques are key when it comes to reducing the occurrence of manual handling injuries when carrying out manual handling tasks. Failure to utilise good manual handling techniques can result in manual handling injuries. 

Common manual handling injuries include back injuries, joint and bone degeneration and injuries, as well as sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments and tendons. Carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica, are two common nerve injuries or compression, caused by repetitive tasks and movements at work. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are also commonplace when it comes to manual handling injuries. It is mainly experienced through pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, due to repetitive strains from lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying heavy loads.

Remember, these don’t only happen in industrial settings. Manual handling hazards in aged care are a very common cause of workplace injuries.

How to Implement Manual Handling Techniques

Manual handling training involves educating employees on good manual handling techniques to manage risks, deal with incidents and ensure their utmost health and safety at work. The best manual handling training would be based on blended learning, for example with learning and demonstration videos to engage employees, as well as in-person elements to impart the know-how on how to maintain good posture and manage heavy loads, or operate certain machinery for dealing with heavy objects.

Management’s Role

The role of the management is to identify risk control measures when it comes to ensuring workplace safety and is hence crucial for assessing, monitoring and mitigating the risks and hazards involved. Managers need to make sure industry standards are met when it comes to carrying out risk assessment, reorganising the environment to reduce risks and impact on employees, as well as implementing the use of mechanical aids such as lifting equipment and other devices. Risk controls such as frequent breaks, job rotation and training, as well as compulsory protective equipment also needs to be put in place.

Best Manual Handling Techniques

Manual handling training should be focused on employees for their specific job roles with scenarios that your employees encounter in their daily work. The below manual handling techniques can be included in your employees’ manual handling training.

Tip: Check out our guide on the best employee training methods.

1. Plan and Assess

Planning is an important first step in manual handling, assessing the weight and dimension of the object, how far it needs to be moved, and location-specific factors such as obstacles in the way, stairs or uneven ground. It is crucial that employees do not lift or handle more than they can manage within safe parameters. The need to seek advice or get help should be encouraged for instances where employees may not be able to fulfil the manual handling tasks on their own.

Check if the manual handling task involves strain and exertion, or long distances so that recovery time and rest points can be planned ahead. It is worth asking whether the object really needs to be lifted, or if mechanical aids be used, or if employees can push/pull instead of lift. Consider if lighting conditions need to be improved or if any personal protective equipment is needed. 

2. Position Your Feet for Balance

Feet should be kept apart to provide balance and a stable base to begin any manual handling activity. One leg is placed in front (alongside the load), in a comfortable position and if possible, pointing in the direction where the object is to be moved towards. Move your feet during the lift to keep a stable posture.

employee using correct feet position to lift a box

3. Keep to a Stable Posture 

Prevent workplace injuries by maintaining a stable posture while carrying and lifting loads. Slight bending of your back, hips and knees when you start to lift is preferred. Avoid twisting your back especially when your back is bent. If you need to turn, move your feet, not your back. Keep your shoulders level and in the same direction as your hips. Keep your head up when handling the heavy load.

4. Maintain a Firm Grip

Use two hands always and hug the load close to your body as this is a hook grip which will give you a stronger grip over the load as compared to using your fingers alone. Keep the load close to your waist as much as possible. The heaviest side of the load should be next to your body. This helps you to avoid awkward postures and the likelihood of injuries.

5. Proceed with Caution

Once the load is held securely, employees should look ahead and move smoothly with caution, preventing any jerk movements to maintain control. There should be a clear view of the travel path of the object and movers, which ought to stay unobstructed, so as to avoid incidents like tripping.

6. Put Down the Load Slowly 

The destination for putting the load down should be a convenient spot so that employees engaged in manual handling can maintain a good pace. The load needs to be put down slowly instead of being dropped suddenly. Putting the load down should be done as smoothly as possible to avoid unnecessary strain and injury. It is important to put down a load first before adjusting it into the desired position. 

Learn the Best Manual Handling Procedures with Cloud Assess

Reading up about the correct techniques is one thing, but it’s important that time is spent for employee training and development at work. At Cloud Assess, we offer a full range of training programmes that can be used to help upskill your employees in valuable areas. Try out our free trial to see how your organisation can benefit. 

two employees manual handling boxes for delivery

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