Getting help with manual handling risks in your business

Research has shown that general training in lifting techniques is an ineffective way of controlling the risks of manual handling in businesses. By getting help to change the way you work, you can reduce manual handling risks and avoid paying for ineffective or unnecessary training.

The categories below describe the different kinds of help you may need and gives examples of how these have been implemented in practice. Comparing your circumstances to these, should help you get the most suitable type of help for your business.

Comprehensive approach to managing MSD risks in your business

Do you need someone to:

  • assess and prioritise your risks
  • provide advice on control measures and their cost effectiveness
  • identify, implement or tailor management systems to help you prevent, reduce or manage risks
  • provide or recommend an occupational health provider to advise on management of cases
  • advise you how to involve your employees and their representatives
  • suggest ways of monitoring and measuring performance

Example - manufacturing plant

The new owners of a manufacturing plant recognised they had investment decisions to make, and were aware of the history of MSD claims against the previous owners. They used a consultant to map the MSD risks. She identified the greatest risks through observation, and shortlisted options for improvements in consultation with managers and workers. She discussed return on investment with the new owners to help plan for shorter and longer-term measures. The consultant recommended an occupational health service provider to assist with what the company called their 'walking wounded'.

MSD risk assessment

Do you need help to:

  • carry out risk assessments for you
  • train your employees to carry out risk assessments
  • advise how to involve workers or representatives
  • identify practical and effective control measures

Example - food processing and packaging plant

Following several cases of MSDs, a consultant was brought into a food processing and packaging plant to undertake risk assessments. The consultant used the Assessment of Repetitive Tasks Tool (ART Tool) to identify higher risk tasks, and put together practical solutions in consultation with supervisors and workers. The consultant also trained staff in the business to use the ART tool for themselves. Later assessments were carried out by workers, with support from the consultant in more complex cases.

Workplace organisation and design changes

Do you need help to:

  • design-out or reduce MSD risks
  • identify changes to how work is organised or to the workplace
  • carry out a cost-benefit analysis
  • involve workers and their representatives in designing and implementing any changes
  • identify suitable equipment

Example - construction project

A construction project required the transport of heavy materials down stairwells. A specialist materials handling designer was consulted, and an overhead conveyor with bespoke cradles was designed and installed. This significantly reduced the risks of workers suffering health problems from manual handling and improved productivity. The workers received training specific to the equipment and process, and reported that they felt their health and safety was valued by their employer.

Changing attitudes, behaviours and providing tailored training

Do you need help in:

  • analysing working practices to fully appreciate the context and demands of the work
  • engaging management and involving workers and their representatives
  • providing tailored training which will help change attitudes and behaviours
  • making better use of equipment

Example - NHS Trust

An NHS trust was concerned about an increasing number of accidents where slide sheets were used to move patients. A back-care adviser reviewed the accidents and reported on working practices. The adviser found staff were unsure about which type of slide sheet to select for the task and found them difficult to use. Involving staff in the design and use, they developed a single slide sheet, suitable for using in all situations. This ended confusion over which sheet to use and staff found the new sheet easier to use. Staff training was tailored to the task, the equipment and environment. MSD-related incidents were reduced by 80%.

Where you can get help

Providers should be able to prove they can deliver what you need. Ask them for evidence of practical hands-on experience and track-record.

Trainers need to demonstrate they have the delivery skills to empower and engage your workforce and business. Your trade body may be able to advise you on suitable providers.

Below are some of the professional bodies, consultant registers and qualification awarding bodies, who have members with the qualifications and experience to help you.

ACPOHE – Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics Registered members are physiotherapists who have demonstrated specialist competency in the fields of occupational health or ergonomics.
BSIF - British Safety Industry Federation Members provide support and guidance on a wide range of occupational safety issues.
BOHS – British Occupational Hygiene Society         Science-based body that provides information, expertise and guidance in the recognition, control and management of workplace health risks.
CREE – Centre for Registration of European Ergonomists Members have their professional practice and education peer-reviewed and must adhere to a professional code of conduct. 
CIEH – Chartered Institute of Environmental Health           Provide a range of professional qualifications and work-based learning solutions.
CIEHF - Chartered Institute for Ergonomics and Human Factors and Professional Registry of consultancies Accreditation body for professional standards in ergonomics and human factors.
CSP - Chartered Society of Physiotherapy    The professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and support workers.
IOSH – Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Provider of health and safety training. Members work to a code of conduct and professional development standards.
IIRSM - International Institute of Risk and Safety Management Their members deliver improvements to occupational health and safety and business risk management.
NEBOSH – The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health Offer a range of qualifications designed to meet the health, safety and environmental management needs of all places of work.
NBE - National Back Exchange Association set up to develop, disseminate, and promote evidence-based best practice relating to manual handling activities.
OSHCR – Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register Assists businesses in finding advice on general health and safety management.
RoSPA – Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Offer consultancy advice/services, range of safety training courses and Ofqual vocational qualifications.


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Updated 2024-03-25