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A Guide to Manual Handling and Lifting Techniques

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 2 Dec 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Lifting Manual Handling Heavy Objects

If you lift a heavy object carelessly you can end up pulling muscles or even worse, suffer long-term damage to your back or upper limbs.

So it’s vital that if your job involves lifting, you know how to do it properly. Many employers have short training sessions for this but if not, they should at least be able to give you a leaflet with the main rules for manual handling.

Manual handling can be described as lowering, lifting, pulling, pushing, holding, restraining, carrying, throwing or handling.

75% of injuries caused by manual lifting could be prevented. In the food and drinks industry, manual handling and lifting causes 30% of all acute injuries.

How to Lift Heavy Objects Safely:

1. Make sure you are standing directly in front of the item you wish to lift
2. Check if the item has handles which you could use
3. Know where you are taking the object before you begin
4. Position your feet evenly (shoulder width apart)
5. Keep your back straight and stand up tall
6. Tighten your stomach muscles
7. Squat to the floor by bending your knees- DO NOT move your upper body
8. Take hold of the object firmly with both hands
9. Distribute the weight evenly - make sure you are not unbalanced
10. Keeping the object close to your body, begin to stand up by straightening your legs (This will use your leg muscles and shouldn’t put strain on other areas)
11. Stand up slowly. Do not move quickly or jerk when doing this
12. You can now walk with the object(but be careful not to twist your body unnecessarily). Take small steps if possible.
13. If you are carrying a large object which restricts your view, ask if someone can guide you.This will prevent you from tripping or bumping into objects
14. When placing the item down, bend your legs
15. Remember to keep your back straight as you bend down again
16. Be careful to lower each side of the object to the floor separately- this will avoid trapping your fingers under the weight

Before attempting to lift any object it is a good idea to warm-up your muscles. Perform some simple stretches beforehand to reduce the risk of injury.

General Guidelines for Lifting

There are general guidelines - or maximum weights - for men and women. If applying these, no man should attempt to lift anything heavier than 25kg and a woman’s maximum limit is 16kg.

But it’s important to take into account other factors which can change the maximum safe weight - such as how high an object will need to be lifted.

If lifting above shoulder height (stocking high shelves for example) men should not lift items heavier than 10kg and women, 7kg – but this maximum weight drops yet again for objects that need to be held away from the body – 5kg for men and 3kg for women.

Employers should carry out risk assessments for all lifting since the safe limit depends on so many variables such as the individual involved, the height that you will be lifting and the distance you will be required to carry the object.

Never assume that because a larger workmate can lift an object without injury that it is a safe weight for you to attempt. Everyone is a different size and we all differ in body strength.

When You Should Take Extra Care:

  • Stacking items above shoulder height
  • Carrying items up or down stairs
  • Carrying items for long distances
  • Lifting in a small work space – this could mean you have to twist or stoop

Things to Check:

  • Is the weight of the item within your physical capability?
  • Have you been given reasonable rest periods between manual lifting tasks?
  • Is there adequate space to lift safely?
  • Is lifting fairly shared between employees?

If you believe you are risking injury through manual lifting, ask your employer to undertake a Risk Assessment. It usually takes only a few minutes but it can reduce the chances of injury. (If your employer does not seem concerned about the issue, you could point out that all employers have responsibilities to their workers under manual handling regulations introduced in 1992.)

Finally, if you do suffer an injury or feel ANY pain while Lifting or Handling an object, stop immediately and speak to your employer. Make sure that the incident is recorded because it could be some hours later before you realize the true extent of the damage.

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I've recently started a job in a warehouse for a well known company. The job involves wearing a headset, that tells you what to pick and put on a pallet. We all have targets to hit per hour. It's very manic and everyone tries to pick as much as they can to hit their pick rates. Some of the things we grab are crates of vegetables, weighing 15kg. We stack them so high, they go over shoulder height. Now, because people want to hit their rates, they double up on the crates, which is 30kg. I do this too, but I pay for it the next day with sore muscles. Everyone says I'll get use to it, even management says the same thing. Surly we shouldn't have to lift this amount and also in such a frantic fast paced way? But if I don't, then my pick rate will be low. I want to say something, but I'll just come across as a moaner. My previous job involved lifting, but they cared more about the staff getting injuries. If something was too heavy, you would get extra help for a team lift. Is there anything I can do to change things?
James - 2-Dec-18 @ 8:49 AM
I am working at a place, which deliver goods to customer, Most of this items weight over 30-75 kg and have to take the Goods upstairs with out lift , fourth floor,more over customers wants us to claim a narrow place to that such goods , most of the workers don’t know there right, no proper training has been given.. we are used , poor salary.. please help our health is in damaged .what advise can be given..
Bobosave - 15-Oct-18 @ 12:36 PM
Asusgirl - Your Question:
I work for a company that told me when I started, that their plans was to get another person to work alongside me. I did have someone help for a brief time before they made her redundant. I have worked there for 15 months and I am now suffering with upper joint pain. I lift tote boxes ranging from 3kg to 16kg on a daily basis. Some tote boxes are so big I cannot do the bending of knees with straight back as I have to bend over it to get the handles. There is no lifting equipment and I have to put them on benches to examine the contents inside and then pick them up to put them on the floor. I have a doctors note which I gave to my boss which said no heavy lifting and alternative work to be found. My boss is ignoring it and just told me to get assistance with the heavier items. What do I do?

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing. Please see the link here .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 10-Sep-18 @ 10:23 AM
I work for a company that told me when I started, that their plans was to get another person to work alongside me. I did have someone help for a brief time before they made her redundant. I have worked there for 15 months and I am now suffering with upper joint pain. I lift tote boxes ranging from 3kg to 16kg on a daily basis. Some tote boxes are so big I cannot do the bending of knees with straight back as I have to bend over it to get the handles. There is no lifting equipment and I have to put them on benches to examine the contents inside and then pick them up to put them on the floor. I have a doctors note which I gave to my boss which said no heavy lifting and alternative work to be found. My boss is ignoring it and just told me to get assistance with the heavier items. What do I do?
Asusgirl - 9-Sep-18 @ 11:34 AM
Just started working in a job. Been asked to lift 25kg bags out of a van to a store. Didn’t know was part of job. 46 year old 5’3’’ lady and too heavy. They said try lifting a different way. Still too heavy, but don’t want to appear that I’m lazy.
Sam - 20-Aug-18 @ 3:24 PM
Illuminati - Your Question:
I work in office furniture we have a showroom where people buy furniture and we deliver it to where they want it. Last week me and another guy had to deliver 2 cupbords and a desk to a house that a lady was setting up a buissnes. She wanted them up stairs in a room 1 six door locker cupbord weighing about 140kg. The other cupbord about 60-70 kg we flatpacked the desk and rebuilt that because it wouldent fix threw to the room. The bug cupbord was rediculus we both strugled I had to bend backwards in order lift the cupbord up it was a nighmare done this so many times over the last 7 years iv had no manual handleing training or anything im just wondering where I stand with carrying rediculus weight up stairs and what I am aloud to carry up stairs so I can show my employer we have told them numerous times we cant take cupbords up stairs but they dont listen the other guy is 67 by the way cheers for any info

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract in order to find this out. If lifting is part of your job, then you have little recourse to complain, unless you feel you are being treated unfairly. If you have no manual handling training you can request this. If your employer refuses, please see the link here .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jul-18 @ 12:02 PM
I work in office furniture we have a showroom where people buy furniture and we deliver it to where they want it. Lastweek me and another guy had to deliver 2 cupbords and a desk to a house that a lady was setting up a buissnes. She wanted them up stairs in a room 1 six door locker cupbord weighing about 140kg. The other cupbord about 60-70 kg we flatpacked the desk and rebuilt that because it wouldent fix threw to the room. The bug cupbord was rediculus we both strugled i had to bend backwards in order lift the cupbord up it was a nighmare done this so many times over the last 7 years iv had no manual handleing training or anything im just wondering where i stand with carrying rediculus weight up stairs and what i am aloud to carry up stairs so i can show my employer we have told them numerous times we cant take cupbords up stairs but they dont listen the other guy is 67 by the way cheers for any info
Illuminati - 17-Jul-18 @ 7:30 PM
Gaz - Your Question:
I drive a class 2, and we have to do the odd times tile lift delveries hippo bagsOne ton on a pallet is this legal, thanks

Our Response:
You would have to see the terms and conditions of your employment contract or employees' handbook to find this out.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 15-Jun-18 @ 2:10 PM
I drive a class 2, and we have to do the odd times tile lift delveries hippo bags One ton on a pallet is this legal, thanks
Gaz - 12-Jun-18 @ 7:55 AM
I work for as a fish packer. For the last 12yrs i am a female. Up until about one yr ago we were lifting full boxes of fish up to 20 kg and fish bins up to 35-40 from floor into table. Also plastic rolls approx 20kg -40 kg above our heads on a stand. About 7 yrs ago had a accident carrying a full fish bin resulting in 3 pins right shoulder rotor cuff. .3 years ago while lifting 20kg off line hurt left shoulder. First one covered work related second not work related so under review. Had private insurance so after arguments got it done with that have 4pins put in. They argued for over 2 yrs while I still worked in pain. Have you any advise thanks
Anne - 12-Apr-18 @ 5:58 AM
I had a hysterectomy 5 months ago. I got a new job with a parcel company, advised that lifting heavy parcels would be included, possibly up to 25kg. I told the interviewer about the op, that I couldn't lift exceptionally heavy parcels. She said just ask for help, it's fine. I Started training, I told the trainer about the op. He arranged for me to go on smaller lighter packages permanently. The Next day at training, I was hauled into the managers office, if I can't lift 26kg I'm not fit for working there (even though women's HSE limit is only 16kg) pushed into a corner and told I had 2 options, resign or be sacked. If sacked I can never work there again. So had no choice and felt intimidated but to write a very basic resignation. They knew when they hired me my circumstances. My op was 5 months ago, I'm not fragile and I can lift 16kg. I'mpretty sure what they did was illegal.
Julie - 1-Mar-18 @ 9:19 PM
@MHOR L23 'At the start of the lift, slight bending of the back hips and knees is preferable to fully flexing the back (stooping) or fully flexing the hips and knees (deep squatting)' However, if you have to continually lift items from ground level, it would beg the question.Why?
Peter-CMIOSH - 11-Feb-18 @ 9:54 AM
Hi, just a brief comment really. You may want to consult Manual Handling Operations regulations 1992 (L23) HSE guidance or contact a HSE ergonomist to update on the preferred method to manually lift an item from near or at ground level, as it certainly will not say "Keep the back straight" .....
Peter - CMIOSH - 11-Feb-18 @ 9:33 AM
I work for the NHS in surgical stores currently we have had staff off due to injury sustaind from working under pressure which has added to even more pressure. Cutting to the chase we are now down to three team members, and on occasion only two, are job entails pushing heavy trucks 7 on a bad day, off loading the sets, then collecting and re packing those sets after uses and then back on the trucks to be pushed back down stairs ready for loading on the van. The company that takes the trucks with the sets on had a problem with their tail gate lifter. It keep braking so they weighed one truck we had given them fully packed. I was told it weighed 630kg and they took in to account how much the truck we loaded them on weighed as well. So from this i did some rough calculating and this is what i came up with630 kg x (the on a bad day, trucks on the first delivery in the morning) which is 7 thats 4410 kg every hour for 8 hours ... So times again by 8 which is 35,280 kga day ! Times that by five days a week which is176,400 !! And that with out 3 to five plates a day and two cages of boxes. We had a team of seven but are now down to a team of 2-3 .....one of my co workers also works seven days a week !!! My line manager knows, issues have been raised with her, my Matron knows but there seems to be a brake down in communication with them to which my co worker and i are suffering. Iv already been injured and even though it was reported and i was dealing with occupational health every thing that was meant to be done has fallen by the way side. What do i do ?
Shishi - 9-Feb-18 @ 11:59 PM
Geri- Your Question:
My husband works for monumental stonework Erects headstones and stone surrounds Already fallen and broken ribs while trying to move headstone No equipment provided has to manually move and position headstones in hard to access areasWhere does he stand

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. You can see more via the CAB link here , which should tell you all you need to know. Your husband's workplace health and safety manual should explain more regarding this and including the equipment his employer should supply.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-Jan-18 @ 11:10 AM
My husband works for monumental stonework Erects headstones and stone surrounds Already fallen and broken ribs while trying to move headstone No equipment providedhas to manually move and position headstones in hard to access areas Where does he stand
Geri - 21-Jan-18 @ 11:21 AM
Webs - Your Question:
I have been in my job as kitchen assistant for the last 12 years, about 18 months ago we had a new steam oven and induction hob fitted, together with new fridges/ freezers. Everything immediately was stored about 1 foot higher than it had been for the previous 10 years I worked for this employer. About a year ago we had milk pergal installed in the upstairs baby kitchen, the job of carrying this up a flight of stairs was put onto me. It weighs about 14 kg and I’m 55 and only 5 foot tall. I struggle reaching high objects and carrying awkward loads any distance. I also struggle lifting heavy objects from the new oven which often contain a liquid which is at my shoulder/face height. I have asked continually for manually handling and assessment but as if yet nothing has been done. Three weeks ago I was put on a poor performance disciplinary even though most of it is are things I have already shown concern about and have now been put on work related stress by my doctor. The number of staff in the kitchen has increased to 3 which in such a tiny kitchen is not good, my prepping area is a small trolley which is at my thigh level and gives me back ache when I have to prepare vegetables etc. And is not really fit for purpose. I feel as though I am being pushed out of a job I have loved doing for so long as I am being asked to do things which are unsafe and could result in either me or someone else being hurt

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. However, your only recourse is to bring these matters up directly with your employer and if you cannot resolve the matter, please see link here .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 18-Dec-17 @ 3:12 PM
I have been in my job as kitchen assistant for the last 12 years, about 18 months ago we had a new steam oven and induction hob fitted, together with new fridges/ freezers. Everything immediately was stored about 1 foot higher than it had been for the previous 10 years I worked for this employer. About a year ago we had milk pergal installed in the upstairs baby kitchen, the job of carrying this up a flight of stairs was put onto me. It weighs about 14 kg and I’m 55 and only 5 foot tall. I struggle reaching high objects and carrying awkward loads any distance. I also struggle lifting heavy objects from the new oven which often contain a liquid which is at my shoulder/face height. I have asked continually for manually handling and assessment but as if yet nothing has been done. Three weeks ago I was put on a poor performance disciplinary even though most of it is are things I have already shown concern about and have now been put on work related stress by my doctor. The number of staff in the kitchen has increased to 3 which in such a tiny kitchen is not good, my prepping area is a small trolley which is at my thigh level and gives me back ache when I have to prepare vegetables etc. And is not really fit for purpose. I feel as though I am being pushed out of a job I have loved doing for so long as I am being asked to do things which are unsafe and could result in either me or someone else being hurt
Webs - 18-Dec-17 @ 10:54 AM
What are the 4 key areas of manual handling.
Murph - 26-Sep-17 @ 6:10 PM
G - Your Question:
My job involves lifting. Lots if lifting. Racking days:I rack and stack 40casks of beer at a time. They weigh 50kg. 5kg empty and need washing before filling, so lifting on and off a washer, then filled then stacked in a cold store three casks high. Brewing days: Loading grain 25kg sacks up to 400kg into a grain shoot then later digging the now wet grain out into sacks aprox 35kg each.Malt delivery has to be loaded by hand 1tonne in 25kg sacks.Thus far this week I have done a malt delivery, x2brew days helped pick out orders and take beer to a cellar and a racking out day. Week in week out. I have explained the need for more staffing and a more appropriate building. Other than that what can I do? I'm looking for another job, however.

Our Response:
Much depends upon what was listed in your job description and whether manual lifting forms part of the terms and conditions of your employment contract. If it is not, or in any measure substantially more than quoted, then you can raise a grievance if your employer is ignoring your complaint. Please see link here .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 21-Sep-17 @ 3:23 PM
I need advised I have to lift heavy hot lockers out of a transit van on to a trolley every day and the have to put the hot lockers back into the van.There are two of us doing this every day but I have now damaged my shoulders from continusle doing this every day. What can I do to help prevent Gerber damaged being done, I have been to the doctors and got told to rest but as soon as I return back to work it will happen all over again.
Claire bear - 21-Sep-17 @ 10:03 AM
My job involves lifting. Lots if lifting. Racking days: I rack and stack 40casks of beer at a time. They weigh 50kg. 5kg empty and need washing before filling, so lifting on and off a washer, then filled then stacked in a cold store three casks high. Brewing days: Loading grain 25kg sacks up to 400kg into a grain shoot then later digging the now wet grain out into sacks aprox 35kg each. Malt delivery has to be loaded by hand 1tonne in 25kg sacks. Thus far this week I have done a malt delivery, x2brew days helped pick out orders and take beer to a cellar and a racking out day. Week in week out. I have explained the need for more staffing and a more appropriate building. Other than that what can I do? I'm looking for another job, however.
G - 20-Sep-17 @ 9:57 PM
Hi. I’ve been working for an assistive technology company for over 4 years now. When I started my duties were to deliver, and train on the equipment I deliver. For the past three years I’ve been asked to carry out ergonomic assessments. This involves carrying at least two fully ergonomic chairs for each assessment. The past few months I’ve been having problems with my right shoulder. Which I have been receiving Physio for. Last Wednesday I put my back out from carrying my two chairs, and two very large boxes.Now I am on Naproxen and strong pain killers. I’ve been in bed since. I don’t get sick pay just unpaid leave. All of the things I carry are over the weight mentioned above. And a lot of times I have to carry over long distances, up stairs, and over obstacles in other peoples homes. A few weeks ago I was told to do an assessment for an electronic chair that weights over 46kg. I’m not sure what my position is. Please could you give me some advice.
Joy - 3-Sep-17 @ 7:08 AM
Hi, I am a service provider for a large domestic and industrial parcel delivery company. They deliver anything from a small data bag weighing under 1kg to items weighing several hundred. One of the rounds had an item loaded weighing in excess of 80kg. I opposed this delivery to be accepted as the route is only one man strong. The item was too long for a pallet or to be lifted on a sack burrow. Am i correct in believing this item would have caused harm to the driver and therefor opening up my business to breaching health and safety laws if I did not refuse this item? thanks
gbp - 12-Aug-17 @ 10:01 PM
I am a special Needs Assistant, and have been told by my school principal that a child in the school that suffers with brittle bone disease will require a manual lift. This lift will require 2 staff using a sling. The lift will be done 6 times and will require us to lower him to his wheelchair. He is supposed to weigh 26kg. I am very concerned about carrying out all those lifts each day. Are there any grounds that I could refuse to do this. The other Special Needs Assistants are also concerned. When we said it to school principal his answer is we have been trained in manual handling, but is this enough. I would apprecipate a reply as soon as possible. Regards, Bernadette Carr
Ber - 29-Apr-17 @ 10:58 PM
Gi - Your Question:
Hi there,I was just notified that my employer is reducing my hours until they find someone else i.e I was fired.The reasons according my employer were this job wasn't important for me and apparently I don't need money and that I have problems with the deliveries.It's a pasty shop where we do deliveries to coffee shops of boxes of pasty. When I started there the first time they asked me to do it were two boxes of pasties, very heavy which I had to carry to one coffee shop which is 12-15 min walk. I didn't have any assessment how to do it. Let me say that was so heavy I couldn't literally feel my arms for 2 days after. After I came back I said we should use a proper trolley for the deliveries. Next time they gave me a trolley which looks more like for children. So I did the delivery. I hurt my back on my previous job and I told my employers I'm happy to do the deliveries but if they can provide me a proper trolley, they said they'll do it.Well it's been more than a month since I mentioned it and no proper trolley has been provided. Today I had to do a delivery, I asked do we have a proper trolley for this, my manager replied with NO the big trolley needs new wheels. She asked me to lift the box which was very heavy, I said I'm sorry but this is heavy for me and I think it's fair to say if you want me to do this all I ask is to provide me the necessary equipment. I said I'm happy to buy myself a shopping trolley.Anyway I did the delivery with the children trolley and when I came back my employer had the talk with me about the reducing hours.When she mentioned the delivery issues I said exactly what I mentioned before, my only problem with that is there's no equipment and I do have constant back pain not to mention I pulled a muscle in my arm for which I went to my GP. I NEVER said I wouldn't do delivery because I know it's part of my job. I just want to know is this correct?

Our Response:
You do not say how long you have been in your position. If you are still in the probationary period of a permanent contract or are on a zero hours contract then your employer can let you go if she thinks you cannot/will not be able to do the job properly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 3-Mar-17 @ 2:11 PM
Hi there, I was just notified that my employer is reducing my hours until they find someone else i.e I was fired. The reasons according my employer were this job wasn't important for me and apparently I don't need money and that I have problems with the deliveries. It's a pasty shop where we do deliveries to coffee shops of boxes of pasty. When I started there the first time they asked me to do it were two boxes of pasties, very heavy which I had to carry to one coffee shop which is 12-15 min walk. I didn't have any assessment how to do it. Let me say that was so heavy I couldn't literally feel my arms for 2 days after. After I came back I said we should use a proper trolley for the deliveries. Next time they gave me a trolley which looks more like for children. So I did the delivery. I hurt my back on my previous job and I told my employers I'm happy to do the deliveries but if they can provide me a proper trolley, they said they'll do it. Well it's been more than a month since I mentioned it and no proper trolley has been provided. Today I had to do a delivery, I asked do we have a proper trolley for this, my manager replied with NO the big trolley needs new wheels. She asked me to lift the box which was very heavy, I said I'm sorry but this is heavy for me and I think it's fair to say if you want me to do this all I ask is to provide me the necessary equipment. I said I'm happy to buy myself a shopping trolley. Anyway I did the delivery with the children trolley and when I came back my employer had the talk with me about the reducing hours. When she mentioned the delivery issuesI said exactly what I mentioned before, my only problem with that is there's no equipment and I do have constant back pain not to mention I pulled a muscle in my arm for which I went to my GP. I NEVER said I wouldn't do delivery because I know it's part of my job. I just want to know is this correct?
Gi - 2-Mar-17 @ 4:30 PM
I'm a tree surgeon but regularly undertake verge clearance along roadsides which involves cutting small saplings of 10-100mm diameter down to ground level. The saw we use is over 5kg and when I commented to my employer that this was giving me a saw back they suggested I go down on one knee to cut. This is not always achievable due to the uneven nature of the ground. What I wanted to know was what would the manual handling weight be if I were to cut from one knee down? Obviously there is an issue of balance on one knee too. I would be grateful for any guidance.
Andy - 11-Feb-17 @ 4:08 PM
Hi We have just gone from working 4 10 hour shifts to 5 8 hour shifts permenent nights. In 8 hours we can lift up to 4000kg in 25 kg bags a shift, this is manually loaded by hand from a static pallet into a mulco sifter at just above wast height. Since going onto 5 shifts no one has any energy at home and we all have various akes and joint pains . We have been told we shouldn't be looking at amount we lift but number of jobs we need to do a shift..... At the min we have H&S in regards dust and we now we're rubber masks due to dust levels we have been working in , some people over 10 years. It feels like a modern workhouse to me and other staff. We are allowed 2 20 min breaks in 8 hours even though we asked for a 30 min break for recovery .
Bishbosh - 24-Jan-17 @ 6:11 PM
am builder who needs to know more techniques in building industry.i love to work together with different groups of people around the world. please i need more help thanks brothers and sisters, yours AKAIS CLEMENT.
kelly - 21-Jan-17 @ 7:58 AM
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