Agriculture - Manual handling

What you need to do...

The law requires you to avoid undertaking hazardous manual handling where reasonably practicable, to assess the risks from any hazardous manual handling where it cannot be avoided, and to take action to reduce these risks. The key issues are:

What you need to know...

Manual handling includes lifting, carrying, putting down, pushing, pulling, moving or supporting a load by hand or using other bodily force. It is not just the weight of the load that can cause injury: the size, shape, available grip, the way you carry the load, where you have to carry it, and how often you have to do the task all play a part.

Many workers suffer from various 'musculoskeletal disorders' (MSDs) as a result of poor manual handling techniques, or through other tasks which involve repetitive movements, excessive force, unusual postures, or from badly organised working practices.

These can include muscle injuries, sprains or strains, back pain, sciatica, hernias, arthritis, or swelling of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder ('work-related upper limb disorders' or WRULDs). People may not fully recover from these, affecting their ability to carry out any manual work in the future. So plan your handling tasks properly.

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Consider whether you have to move the load manually at all. If possible eliminate manual handling completely, for example:

Remember the Regulations do not set specific requirements such as weight limits. Consider:

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If you cannot avoid manual handling, look at the risks from your handling operations. You do not have to look at every task in detail – if the load is less than about 25 kg, easily gripped close to the body, and the working conditions are good (eg indoors, with a level floor and plenty of space) the risk of injury to most people will be low.

Instead, focus on the tasks with the greatest risks. Use HSE's Manual Handling Assessment Chart [211KB] (MAC tool) to help you identify problem areas, eg loads that:

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If you cannot eliminate the risk, look at how you can reduce it to an acceptable level, for example:

Where manual handling tasks remain and you cannot avoid them, make sure that workers know how to use the correct lifting techniques and provide training to enable them to do this.

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Lifting safely


A good handling technique or training in safe lifting is no substitute for other risk-reduction steps such as improving the task, load or working environment, or providing mechanical handling or lifting aids. Good technique requires both training and practice. Training is available from various sources including training groups, colleges and organisations such as Lantra Awards.