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Manual Handling Guide for Safety Managers

Everything you need to know about manual handling



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Getting a Handle on Manual Handling

Manual handling is part of many operations, but it's also an area that can lead to injuries. In fact, manual handling injuries are one of the most common types of workplace injuries, leading many Safety Managers to assess manual handling processes in pursuit of safer operations and working environments.  

Often, the manual movement of loads can be avoided or supported using mechanical aids and process changes. Where tasks can’t be remapped or removed, it’s crucial for businesses to ensure they follow best practices and educate their staff on safe and efficient handling techniques.  

This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you need to know about manual handling. We’ll cover… 

1.      What is Manual Handling? 

2.      Common Handling Tasks & Manual Handling Activities  

3.      The Risks of Moving Loads by Hand 

4.      Workplace Injury Statistics 

5.      Manual Handling Risk Assessment & Techniques 

6.      5 Key Principles for Safely Moving Loads Manually 

7.      How to Reduce Hazards with Manual Handling Solutions 

8.      Your Manual Handling Checklist 

1.      What is Manual Handling? 

Manual handling is defined as transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force. It often includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, and carrying loads by hand. The heavier the load, the more strenuous and hazardous the task is for staff. Other factors such as the frequency of movement, the distance a load is moved over, and the shape and design of the load can all influence risk levels.  

Pushing and Pulling Wheeled Loads 

Manual handling is often associated with lifting tasks. Nonetheless, it's important to recognize that manually pushing and pulling heavy-wheeled loads can also pose a considerable risk of injury. The presence of wheels on a load doesn't mean it can or should be moved manually. 


3.      The Risks of Moving Loads by Hand 

Moving loads by hand presents the risk of injury. Injuries are often caused by the handling of heavy loads, poor posture, and repetitive, awkward movements. These can lead to various injuries, back injuries, strains and sprains, hernias and slips and trips. 

Musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most common types of work-related injury. These injuries can cause significant pain, loss of mobility, and an inability to work. Injuries caused by manually moving heavy loads can also lead to long-term health issues that can negatively impact an employee's quality of life. 

4.      Workplace Injury – Global Statistics 

Manual handling injuries are a significant issue globally and across a diverse range of industries.  


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average settlement for a back injury at work


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estimated economic cost of manual handling injuries


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average absence for work related back pain

Manual Handling Statistics


In the US, direct healthcare costs for lower back pain are estimated to be between $50 billion to $90.7 billion annually. Research from Liberty Mutual shows that compensation for manual handling injuries from pushing, pulling, lifting and holding loads costs employers $13.4 billion every year, while the average settlement for work-related back injuries is $23,600.


The situation is similar in France and Germany. In Germany, industry-focused data shows that the manufacturing sector suffers the greatest financial impact of musculoskeletal disorders with reportedly €6.45 billion in lost production and €10.63 billion in lost gross added value. Likewise, MSDs account for the largest proportion of sick days in Germany, accounting for 29.8%. One in two workplace accidents are a result of manual handling in France, while 86% of occupational diseases are types of musculoskeletal disorders.  


Further afield, manual handling injuries are also an issue, with MSDs accounting for 60% of occupational diseases in Singapore, prompting a significant focus on improving workplace safety. In Australia, it's estimated that manual handling injuries cost the economy $28 billion each year, with manual handling accounting for 45% of all workplace injuries. 

World Day Safety and Health

5.      Manual Handling Risk Assessment & Techniques 

When assessing manual handling tasks, the following steps should be followed:

  • Avoid manually moving loads where possible
  • Assess the risks associated with any handling task
  • Reduce the risks as much as possible by using mechanical equipment, altering the task, or distributing the weight of the load evenly.
  • Provide suitable training to employees on safe handling techniques.
Manual Handling Injuries

Manual Handling Techniques

There are many manual handling techniques that employees can use to reduce the likelihood of injury: 

  •         Lift with your legs, not your back
  •         Keep the load close to your body
  •         Maintain good posture
  •         Take breaks when necessary

 6.      Five Key Principles for Safely Moving Loads Manually  

It is not always possible to avoid manually moving loads, but you should avoid hazardous manual handling tasks that exceed employees abilities or weight limits. 

To minimize the risk of handling injuries, following these 5 key principles can help improve safety when assessing the risk of moving loads by hand.  

  • 1


    Check for obstacles before starting a movement and assess if the movement is feasible.

  • 2


    Establish good posture and keep your body stable and centered.  

  • 3


    Keep loads close to your body for maximum stability

  • 4


    Make the movement smooth, keeping your head and spine straight. 

  • 5


    Slowly finish the movement in a smooth motion. 

Manually moving roll cage

7.      How to Reduce the Risk of Injury and Manual Handling Hazards  

Manual handling injuries are a serious issue that can cause significant harm to employees and businesses. However, by following the principles of safe manual handling, using the correct techniques and utilizing the appropriate mechanical aids, you can significantly reduce the risk of injury.  

SmartMover SM100+ moving textiles for processing

Manual Handling Solutions - Electric Tugs

Electric tuggers are a type of material handling equipment designed to move heavy-wheeled loads. Allowing the effortless movement of loads, electric tugs are the ideal manual handling solution, improving safety and driving workplace efficiencyA single operator can safely move heavy loads from 110 lbs. to over 154,000 lbs., without any physical effort. 

Download Your Manual Handling Injury Checklist 

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

What’s inside…

  • Everything you need to know about  manual handling risks
  • Risk assessment checklist for your place of work
  • Common questions to ask when sourcing material handling equipment