Construction physical ill health risks: Manual handling

Regularly lifting, carrying or handling materials and items can cause serious injuries. Do not accept these injuries as an inevitable part of your work. This page tells you how to control these risks and why. More detailed information is available on the main HSE manual handling page.

What you must do

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 says you must prevent or reduce risks from lifting, carrying and handling loads. Follow the Assess, Control and Review model. Pay particular attention to:


Identify and assess: Construction sites have many different materials that need assembling or moving from one place to another. Consider:

The Manual Handling Assessment Chart (MAC) tool has been developed to help you identify higher risk tasks.

You will also need to consider any risks from upper limb disorders linked to this work.


Where the risks are judged to be low, simple and inexpensive controls will suffice.  For certain specific tasks, like working with plasterboard, kerbs and paving or blocks and masonry units you may have to do more. Give priority to the greatest risks first.

Prevent: Think about eliminating or reducing lifting and carrying risks where possible. Consider:

Control: Even if you minimise some of the risks this way, you may still do other work that can involve significant lifting or carrying. Control the risk by:

Train: Correct handling techniques are a valuable addition to the controls above. They are not a substitute for them. Training should be tailored to the tasks you are likely to do.


What you should know

Construction work, by its very nature, involves many lifting, carrying and handling activities. Construction workers are at risk because many of these tasks can require them to:

These factors can create excessive stresses and strains on the body. This can cause immediate damage to muscles and tendons such as strains and sprains but can also lead to longer term or recurrent problems. These are commonly termed musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

The term MSD covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper / lower limbs or the back. Skilled construction and building trades are one of the occupations with the highest estimated prevalence of back injuries and upper limb disorders. Handling is also the most commonly reported cause of over seven day injuries in the industry.

Symptoms may include pain, aching, discomfort, numbness, tingling and swelling. Workers who suffer from MSDs may have a reduced ability to do tasks, as well as suffering recurrent or long term pain or discomfort.

Updated 2023-02-21