RR583 - Manual handling training: Investigation of current practices and development of guidelines

This report presents findings of a systematic literature review, telephone survey and expert panels undertaken to determine what constitutes effective manual handling training. The results of the systematic review indicate there is very little evidence supporting the effectiveness of both technique and educational based manual handling training. There was evidence that principles learnt during training are not applied in the workplace. Strength and flexibility training appears potentially beneficial, however further research is needed to determine whether it has long term benefits in terms of injury reduction. There was no evidence for the effectiveness of back schools in preventing low back pain. Ergonomics interventions that include risk assessment, observation of workers, tailored training and task/equipment redesign have been shown to be beneficial in the literature.

The telephone survey indicated that induction of new staff and statutory requirements are the main drivers for manual handling training. More than 75% of companies surveyed conduct in-house manual handling training rather than out sourcing training to consultants. Most organisations and consultancies record participant feedback on training courses and sickness absence is regarded as the main outcome measure of effectiveness. Survey respondents felt that manual handling training is more effective if it is tailored to specific industry and task demands. Practical elements in training were believed to reinforce learning, particularly if tailored to individual job demands. To be effective, manual handling training needs to be embedded as an on-going process in organisations and reinforced with regular refresher courses. Training should encourage the workforce to assess risk and there needs to be careful monitoring of working practices. The expert panels reviewed the findings and the discussions were used to generate and refine a set of guiding principles for effective manual handling training.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2021-04-21