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Pushing and pulling loads

Pushing and pulling of loads is a way to reduce or avoid manual lifting and carrying. Putting the load on a trolley and pushing it is one way of avoiding carrying.

So, when people push and pull instead of lifting and carrying, less effort is required, but there may still be a risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which you need to assess and eliminate or reduce.

Although you may think that the Manual Handling Operations Regulations only apply to the lifting, lowering and carrying of loads, they also apply to pushing and pulling. This ‘pushing and pulling’ guide should help you comply with the regulations and control the risks to your workers.

A risk assessment tool for pushing and pulling operations (the RAPP tool) is available:

NOTE: Since the RAPP tool was launched, our experience, supported by further testing, has indicated that the tool is not sensitive to the level of risk in some tasks (or parts of tasks) involving moving loads with hand pallet trucks or similar, with small wheels.

In these tasks, small irregularities (including debris) and small gradients in the floor surfaces, which would otherwise be assessed as low risk (Good G/0) under the A-7 Floor surface and A-8 Obstacles along the route factors, can have a very significant effect on the manual forces required. In these situations, the RAPP will tend to underestimate the level of risk, although the need for high force should be identified from looking at worker posture in factor A-2 Posture.

Therefore, a full, site-specific, pushing and pulling risk assessment may be preferable when assessing tasks (or parts of tasks) in locations with varying floor and environmental conditions. This is particularly likely for tasks that occur outdoors or can be affected by the weather, such as deliveries or loading/unloading in yards. Worker involvement in the assessment process is important as they have valuable knowledge of the specific risks of the task, particularly, for example, drivers who are experienced in delivery operations.

HSE has produced a pushing and pulling risk assessment checklist and an example checklist to help with your full risk assessments.
Updated 2018-02-15