Assessing Manual Handling Risks

Manual handling is the cause of over a third of all workplace injuries, with the health and social care sector having the highest incident rate of all employment types!

Most of these injuries are musculoskeletal in nature with the back being the site injured in the majority of cases. Back injuries are extremely painful and can have long reaching consequences, so prevention is definitely better than cure. Manual handling is simply not seen as a high risk task by those involved in this type of work, so is seldom given the attention it requires from a health and safety point of view, hence the high incidence rate. The good news is that with a little thought and limited expense many of these injuries can be avoided.

In the first instance it is important to state that the law requires only the tasks that carry a significant risk of injury need to be risk assessed.

These are tasks where loads are heavy, perhaps they have to be carried over long distances or are repetitive.

The best control measure is to eliminate the need to carry out the task in the first instance through use of mechanical lifting aids such as fork lift trucks. However this is not always possible. You may be able to provide manual lifting aids such as sack trucks or trolleys, but remember using this type of equipment does not remove the manual handling element and a risk assessment may still be required.

A manual handling risk assessment looks at four key areas, also known as the TILE factors:

  • Task
  • Individual
  • Load
  • Environment

This makes it easier to assess the activity properly.

The “Task” element is an oversight of the activity as a whole.

Questions you need to ask are things such as:

  • How far is the load carried?
  • Is it a one off task or is it carried out regularly?
  • Are there any risky movements imposed such as bending and twisting?
  • Is the work rate dictated, by a machine or process for example?
  • What time of day does the work need to be done?

For the “Individual” you must employ somebody who is physically capable of carrying out the work.

Those with pre-existing medical conditions and injuries, pregnant women, young people and those with learning difficulties may need extra control measures or it simply may not be safe for them to carry out the task. Other questions to include are:

  • Is it a team lift?
  • Has the employee had manual handling training?
  • How experienced are they at manual handling?
  • Do they require any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

The obvious question about the “Load” itself is “how heavy is it?”

However you also need to consider:

  • What is the heaviest side?
  • Shape and dimensions of the load.
  • How easy is it to grip?
  • Can it be reduced into smaller loads?
  • Is it hazardous in itself, for example is it hot, sharp or a chemical?
  • Does the centre of gravity change? This will be the case for liquids, sacks of loose items, animals and people!

Finally with regards to the “Environment” you need to know:

  • Is there enough space to carry out the task?
  • Does the lifting route encompass doors, stairs, ramps, vehicular routes?
  • Is flooring in good condition and free from obstruction?
  • What is the temperature?
  • What are weather conditions likely to be on the day the task is carried out (outside work only!)?
  • Is there sufficient light to carry out the task?

Once you have covered the TILE factors you can then identify the conditions that are going to cause the highest risk. It is these elements that you need to provide control measures for. Control measures can include reducing the size of the load, locating delivery vans as close to the final destination of the load as possible, carrying out the work at quieter times of the day, identifying where lifts can be used rather than taking the stairs and buying stock or materials in smaller sizes that are easier to lift.

There is no set format for this assessment, but lots of examples are available online or contact us for help compiling your own form. If you employ over five people then legally you must keep a record of these assessments and review them if any of the TILE factors change.

Contact us for further information.



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