Doing a push/pull risk assessment

How do I know if I need to assess the risk in more detail?

Look at the Appendix to guidance booklet L23 'Manual Handling'. This sets out ways to help you decide how detailed your pushing and pulling risk assessments need to be:

  • A simple risk filter based on you assessing the posture of the person carrying out the task. If the person can walk upright while pushing or pulling without having to exert much force, then the task is very likely to be low risk.
  • A more detailed assessment using the RAPP tool. You may choose to use other tools not published by HSE instead.
  • A full risk assessment taking account of all the factors in Schedule 1 of MHOR. This is needed when there are risk factors that the earlier stages do not address. To ensure that the key risk factors from pushing and pulling operations are identified, HSE has produced a pushing and pulling risk assessment checklist. There is also an example checklist to help with your risk assessments.

Measuring pushing and pulling forces

No column header Men Women
Guideline figures for stopping or starting a load 20 kg (ie about 200 Newtons) 15 kg (ie about 150 Newtons)
Guideline figures for keeping a load in motion 10 kg (ie about 100 Newtons) 7 kg (ie about 70 Newtons)

If you decide you need to measure the actual forces required to move your loads, you can compare your results to the guideline figures in the table. If your measurements are greater than these figures, you should look for ways to reduce the effort required. (Also see paragraphs 127-132 in L23.)

The force required will increase if the conditions are not perfect, eg if the wheels are not in the right position, or the device is poorly maintained. Moving loads over soft or uneven surfaces can require greater forces. Using larger wheels could offset this. Pushing and pulling forces will also increase if a ramp or slope is to be negotiated.

There is no specific limit to the distance a load can be pushed or pulled as long as there are sufficient breaks for rest or recovery.

Remember: the use of these guidelines does not affect your duty to avoid or reduce the risk of injury where this is reasonably practicable. The guideline figures should not be regarded as weight limits or approved figures for safe pushing and pulling operations.

How do I measure the force?

Forces to keep loads moving are generally less than starting forces, so you need to measure the smallest force needed to start the load moving. If you apply more force the load will accelerate more quickly.  It is easy to use more force than you need to, so you need to be careful when making measurements.

Newtons (N) are used to measure forces in any direction, as opposed to kilograms which measure how much effort is needed to lift something upwards. As a guide it takes about 10N to lift a kilogram.

The force needed to move a load could be measured using a spring balance, similar to those used in fisheries and butchers, by attaching the balance to the loads handle, pulling the load and noting down the figures.

Accurate measurements are best made with a specialised electronic dynamometer. These can record the peak force used and can be connected to a computer. They can vary in price depending on their functions.

When making measurements with a dynamometer make sure that all the pushing or pulling force goes through the dynamometer. Most dynamometers only measure force in one direction, so you need to apply the force horizontally through it. Think about how you position the load and the surface it is on, especially if the surface is rough. Make several measurements to ensure you get consistent results. Use the smallest values that just get the load moving to compare with the figures in the table.

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Updated 2023-04-25