Management of moving and handling

Some disabled students and/or students with SEN/ASN may require specialist moving and handling, treatment or facilities.  Teachers and teacher assistants might be called upon to deal with issues they have not had to address before. This is particularly likely when students with severe or complex SEN/ASN are taught in a mainstream setting or 'special' targeted provision.  Students may not be able to recognise everyday hazards, communicate distress, or move around independently.

Health and safety legislation does NOT prohibit all moving and handling; rather it requires employers to adopt a risk management approach.  Employers need to focus on enabling, rather than prohibiting, student participation.

There are several pieces of legislation relating to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which attach responsibilities to both employers and employees.

Factors to consider in individual moving and handling risk assessments

Activities where moving and handling may be required:

  • moving around school/ college
  • toileting
  • playground or outdoor activities
  • travelling on school transport
  • activities outside school eg swimming, educational visits
  • emergency procedures eg moving from the floor after a fall, fire evacuation.

Student factors:

  • ability to communicate
  • weight of student
  • ability to bear weight
  • ability to co-operate and follow instructions
  • physical conditions eg spasm, variable muscle tone, impaired eyesight and hearing, and
  • behaviour.

Employee factors:

  • individual capabilities and conditions that may affect or inhibit moving and handling, including pregnancy
  • training needs
  • level of competence, and
  • number of trained competent staff available.

Environmental factors:

  • constraints of space
  • poor floors, variations in levels
  • poor layout of areas, making moving and handling difficult
  • restrictions of movement from clothing, and
  • poor lighting.

A note of caution

Sometimes parents and carers develop moving and handling techniques that put them at risk of injury (so called 'controversial moves') – in many cases this is because the benefit to them or the individual student's home life outweighs the risk.  This does not mean that schools or staff should adopt the same lifting and carrying techniques in the school – the principles of finding the right balance between risks to staff, the opportunities for the student, and the student's rights apply to lifting and carrying as they do to all other aspects of the student's education.  Dialogue and discussion with the student and carer can help produce a positive outcome for all parties.

Find out more

Guidance and further reference material is available.

Specific information on moving and handling in the healthcare sector is also available.

Example generic risk factors and control measures

Manual Handling - Some generic risk factors and control measures for mobility assistance are provided.

Moving and handling case studies

Example case studies are provided to illustrate considerations to be taken into account when completing moving and handling assessments involving students with SEN/ASN.


Is this page useful?

Updated 2023-08-16