Where the workplace assessment shows potential risks to the health of employees from the manual handling of loads, the employer must develop a safe system of work that avoids those risks. This calls for attention to four main things.
1. Task. What has to be achieved, by whom and when?
- Can manual handling be avoided completely?
- Does the task involve repetitive lifting?
- Does the task involve repetitive twisting?
- Can the distance a load has to be moved be reduced (for example, can it be delivered or moved nearer)?
- Can lifting aids be used (for example, a wheelbarrow, trolley or vacuum lifters)?
- How and from what height is the load to be lifted or lowered?
- Will it be necessary to overreach or stretch to lift or put down the load?
2. Individual. Are they male or female, large or small in stature and frame, what is their age and do they have any health issues or injuries?
- Will they need specialist manual handling training or training in any technique needed to use the equipment?
- Are they male or female, tall or small, young or old?
- Do they have any existing injuries or health conditions?
- Do they need additional personal protective equipment (PPE)?
3. Load. Is it too heavy to lift, can it be broken down into smaller loads, or can two people lift it?
- Can the load be split down into smaller loads?
- Should it be moved by two (or more) people?
- Is the weight and centre of gravity of the load known?
- Is it hot, cold, wet or greasy, or does it have sharp edges?
- Can it be gripped easily or are there adequate and suitable handholds?
4. Environment. What hazards are there on the route? For example, are there slippery or uneven floors, slopes, steps or narrow passages?
- Is the floor or ground free from slip or trip hazards?
- Does the load need to be carried up steps or stairs?
- Are there any space constraints or obstructions that should be removed?
- Is the level of lighting adequate?
If the load is large, heavy or awkward get help, preferably from someone of about the same size and build as you to help maintain the balance of the load during lifting. Team lifting should only be carried out with people of similar capabilities who have been trained to carry out team lifting. One person should take the lead and give clear instructions during lifting, carrying and lowering.