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Manual Handling Principles | 5 Steps for Safer Lifting

Safeti School | Workplace Health and Safety
Safeti School | Workplace Health and Safety
Manual Handling Principles | 5 Steps for Safer Lifting
Manual Handling Principles | 5 Steps for Safer Lifting 1
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Manual Handling Principles | Intro

Manual handling and lowering the risk of injury is not an exact science, every lift and every environment requires unique consideration.

However, to avoid manual handling or musculo-skeletal injuries, performing a sufficient manual handling risk assessment and applying a few simple manual handling principles can help reduce risk.

The 5 P’s or 5 Manual Handling Principles to avoid injury that we refer to are summarised as follows;

  1. Plan – plan your lift adequately
  2. Position – centre the body & feet correctly
  3. Pick – lift item using good posture
  4. Proceed – move toward desired location
  5. Place – set object down safely 

Watch our Manual Handling Training

If you are interested in taking advantage of our free online Manual Handling course for yourself, your team or your business, you may benefit from watching our YouTube bitesize version of the training (without quizzes etc.).

Watch our Manual Handling training right here..

What do the principles of safer manual handling help you to do?

The key principles of manual handling help us to take a measured approach to transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force.

Using a step-by-step approach to planning manual handling activities, helps us determine the level of injury risk and allows us to implement suitable mitigation measures to reduce that risk to an acceptable level.

Remember, it is best to try eliminating and reducing the manual handling required before you proceed.

Let’s move on to look at the 5 Manual Handling Principles, starting with number 1. PLAN.

5 Key Manual Handling Principles

1. Plan

The thing we all forget to do, which is perhaps most important, make a PLAN!

Before you lift the object, you should trace the entire path of travel to the final location to make sure the entire way is clear for the load. Tripping over obstacles or having to put down the load midway are hazards that can easily be avoided.

Just looking at an object can give you some idea of whether another team member or mechanical assistance will be needed to get the object from “point a” to “point b.”

Many packing labels will specify weight, and the size and shape of the package can indicate if a truck or dolly will be necessary.

Usually it’s wise not to lift cumbersome or objects heavier than around 25kgs/55lbs (or less depending on your strength) without help. Use the Weight Guide opposite to help determine an acceptable weight distribution.

Manual Handling Lifting and Lowering
Lifting and Lowering Weight Guide: HSE (UK)

If there is no easy way to ascertain the weight of a load, a quick shove or nudge can indicate whether outside help will be needed. Know your limits, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.

It is always preferable to lift and put down a heavy object close to the height at which it will be carried. Appropriately stage/prepare materials that must be moved, where possible to do so.

You can check out our Manual Handling TILE post for more details on assessing your lift.

2. Position

manual handling principles

Approach the load evenly, with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Move the center of your body as close as possible to its center before lowering yourself to lift the object.

Get a Grip: Whenever possible, use handholds or handles to maximize the power of the worker.

Use two hands whenever possible and encircle the object).

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3. Pick

As you move the object upward, maintain a natural motion, keeping the load as close as possible to your spine.

Engage the muscles of your torso to stabilize your spine and maintain steady breathing while your legs and buttocks perform most of the lifting work.

near miss

Your feet should only move to keep the load and your torso aligned and neutral.

Power Zone: The “power zone” or preferred work zone is the area of your body horizontally between your shoulders and vertically between the middle of your thighs and center of your chest. Keeping heavy loads in this area helps ensure your limbs and trunk are not forced into awkward postures and an increased likelihood of injury.

4. Proceed (with caution)

As you carry the load, keep the spine upright and avoid twisting, bending and reaching. Rather than twisting at the waist or along the spine, step with one foot in the new direction. Then, allow the rest of your body and the load to follow.

Avoid carrying loads that interfere with a clear view of your travel path or have a spotter make sure no obstacles present a tripping hazard while the object is in motion.

5. Place

When you reach the destination, lower the object in the reverse of how you lifted it. Never drop a heavy load, shove it into place or jerk it around.

manual handling

Smooth, steady, deliberate motions protect you from unnecessary strain and injury. Lifting, carrying and putting down a load with care and consideration helps prevent unnecessary musculoskeletal injuries.

As with any activity in the workplace, it is important to ensure that your employees are adequately trained and competent to perform their tasks. 

Free Manual Handling Training Online

Need a little more than the blog? You can learn the 5 Manual Handling principles by video and more, including achieving a learning certificate, just enrol in our FREE Manual Handling Training course!

Manual Handling Principles | Background

Manual Handling Injury Ireland | Safeti
Health and Safety Authority (2019)

In Ireland, Manual handling injuries are the most common workplace injury (see image), with over 30% physical injuries relating to the back, arm or shoulders.  

For GB, in the 2020/21 business year, there were approximately 470,000 (yes, ~0.5 Million!) work-related musculoskeletal (MSK) disorder cases. 81% of these were related to the upper limbs, neck or back.

The HSE (GB) estimates that 8.9 Million working days were lost due to these MSK disorders.

Manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard work (DSE) or repetitive action are regarded as the key causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Workplace Health and Safety Act | Safeti
Source: HSE GB

Manual Handling Regulations NI and GB

Due to the scale of the issue, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 were implemented to outline the legal requirements for businesses in the UK.

For NI, these are known as the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992

Classroom Manual Handling Training Ireland | Safeti

Manual Handling Regulations Ireland

In Ireland, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, (General Applications) Regulations 2007, Chapter 4 of  Part 2, outline the requirements that must be adhered to in relation to manual handling. 

In summary, employer’s must endeavour to do the following;

  • Carry out a manual handling risk assessment of existing tasks
  • Organise tasks to reduce need for manual handling, including rotation, layout and mechanical aids
  • Provide instruction and training to staff

As with any health and safety management, the approach and resource required should be proportionate the risk involved.

HSA Manual Handling Statistics
HSA Manual Handling Statistics 2019

Manual Handling Principles | That's all folks!

Hopefully, this short post and podcast on manual handling TILE and the 5 P’s has been helpful for you and your team. Now you can think about how to reduce manual handling risk in your operations….the next time you go to lift an object, think about the 5 P’s – PLAN (TILE) – POSITION – PICK – PROCEED – PLACE

Does your business require Health and Safety support?

If you have a question on workplace manual handling or manual handling training, drop our H&S professionals a message via the Live Chat tool (bottom right) or by using the contact form below. We have some fantastic options for both online and classroom manual handling training.

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