Manual handling relates to the moving of items either by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling. But it's not just a case of 'pulling something' due to the weight of the item, although this can be a cause of injury. Injuries can be caused because of the amount of times you have to pick up or carry an item, the distance you are carrying it, the height you are picking it up from or putting it down at (picking it up from the floor, putting it on a shelf above shoulder level) and any twisting, bending stretching or other awkward posture you may get in whilst doing a task.
Manual handling is one of the most common causes of injury at work and causes over a third of all workplace injuries which include work related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) such as upper and lower limb pain/disorders, joint and repetitive strain injuries of various.
Manual handling injuries can occur almost anywhere in the workplace and heavy manual labour, awkward postures and previous or existing injury can increase the risk. Work related manual handling injuries can have serious implications for both the employer and the person who has been injured. Employers may have to bear substantial costs, through lost production, sickness absence costs of retraining, wages/overtime to cover for the absent person and potentially compensation payments. The injured person may find that their ability to do their job is affected and there may be an impact on their lifestyle, leisure activities, ability to sleep and future job prospects.
It is essential therefore that employers manage the risks to their employees. If possible you should not carry out any manual handling tasks. Where these are necessary mitigate the risk by using some equipment - trollies, fork lift truck etc.
Where tasks are essential and cannot be done using lifting equipment, conveyors or wheeled trollies/cages, a suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be conducted.
The HSE has developed tools to help employers analyse lifting and moving (MAC tool), repetitive tasks like twisting, bending, and repeated movements (ART tool) and a push pull tool. Depending on the task, you may have to use more than one tool to fully risk assess, for example you may need to pick up a box of items (Lifting), carry it to a workstation (carrying) then distribute it to other locations such as pigeon holes or a filing cabinet (bending, stretching, repetition).
For more information about each tool click on the following links