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How to prevent manual handling injuries in manufacturing + Checklist

Manual handling injuries are common in manufacturing industries and can have devastating consequences for workers and manufacturers. Manual handling injuries can significantly reduce productivity and quality of life if left unchecked.

That’s why manufacturers need to understand what manual handling is, identify its associated risks, and develop strategies to reduce those risks.

What is manual handling?

Manual handling covers various activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling, lowering, and positioning loads, equipment or parts.

Common tasks include lifting boxes or pushing heavy-wheeled loads up and down inclines.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR)

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (or MHOR) cover employers and employees.

The regulations state that:

  1. Employers have a legal obligation to make a ‘sufficient and suitable’ review of any manual handling task to understand the level of risk. Any manual handling task that could pose the risk of injury must be subject to a full risk assessment.
  2. Employees must take reasonable care of their health and safety in the workplace and communicate with their employers regarding any potentially hazardous manual handling tasks.


What are the risks of manual handling?

The nature of manual handling means that it presents several risks. When done incorrectly, manual handling can result in serious injuries within the workplace.

The likelihood of manual handling injuries increases when:

  • Tasks are repetitive
  • Operations exceed an employee’s abilities (i.e., weight being moved)
  • The layout of tasks is awkward
  • Employees have existing injuries

Manual handling can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), back injuries from overexertion, strains from awkward posture and even hernias from overexertion. Other risks include trips and falls caused by uneven surfaces or poor visibility when moving materials

Which manual handling activity is most hazardous?

Different types of manual handling activities carry different levels of risk depending on their complexity, frequency, and difficulty.

The most hazardous manual handling activity requires the repeated movement of heavy loads in awkward positions. Such tasks present a high risk for MSDs because muscles have no time to rest between movements.

5 Common manual handling injuries in the workplace

1. Back Injuries

Back injuries are the most common injury caused by manual handling. Often injuries are caused by lifting heavy loads but pushing and pulling wheeled loads, poor posture or repetitive movements are also key contributors.

2. Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Repetitive movements, over-exertion, lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy trolleys are just a few aspects of manual handling that can lead to MSDs in the workplace.

3. Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains occur when musculoskeletal tissues become overloaded from activities such as moving loads that are too heavy or by using excessive strain when gripping.

4. Hernias

Overstraining to lift, push, pull or stop a heavy load through manual handling can cause hernias.

5. Slips, Trips and Falls

The manual movement of heavy loads can increase the risk of slips and trips through poor visibility or movements on uneven floor surfaces.

The State of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) Report

Musculoskeletal Disorder Infographic - Title slide
The State of MSDs Report [2022 Statistics]
Musculoskeletal Disorder Infographic - Slide 1
477,000 workers are suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder (new or long standing)
Musculoskeletal Disorder Infographic - Slide 2
7.3 million working days lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders
Musculoskeletal Disorder Infographic - Slide 3
139,000 workers suffering from a new case of work-related musculoskeletal disorder
Musculoskeletal Disorder Infographic - Slide 4

37% Upper limbs or neck

21% Lower limbs

42% Back

Musculoskeletal Disorder Infographic - Slide 5

HSE reports that the key work factors causing work-related MSDs are:

Manual handling

Working in awkward or tiring positions

Repetitive movements

7 ways to reduce manual handling risks

To reduce manual handling risks in manufacturing environments, there are several strategies employers can implement, including

1. Use mechanical aids

Incorporating appropriate mechanical aids into your process can make tasks easier on staff, i.e., lifting equipment to take the weight when lifting load or electric tugs to take the strain out of moving wheeled loads.

2. Identify any hazards with a manual handling risk assessment

Regularly reviewing your processes and tasks with employees will help identify manual handling tasks with a higher risk of injury.

3. Proper job design

This involves ensuring that jobs and work processes are designed with safety at the forefront and avoid manual handling where possible.

4. Appropriate manual handling training

Ensure employees receive adequate training for each task, how to carry out manual handling activities safely and on correct manual handling techniques.

5. Keeping track of workloads

Monitor how much each worker is doing and what tasks involve manual handling and excessive physical exertion.

6. Regular breaks

Give employees scheduled breaks throughout their shifts, so they have time to rest between tasks.

7. Assess individual abilities

Evaluate each employee’s capabilities during risk assessments so you know if particular staff members require additional support/mechanical aids when performing specific tasks or if they are at higher risk of injury.

Download your manual handling injury checklist

Implementing manual handling preventative strategies creates an environment where workers feel safe, resulting in fewer workplace injuries, reducing staff absences, and improving productivity overall.

We’ve created an easy-to-use checklist to help you quickly assess manual handling processes and identify the next steps in reducing the risk of manual handling injuries.