Safer handling

Basic principles of manual handling

Basically, you need to first stop and think – plan the lift, and use appropriate handling aids if possible. Then, here are some basic principles that everyone should observe prior to carrying out a manual handling operation:

  • Ensure that the object is light enough to lift, is stable and unlikely to shift or move
  • Heavy or awkward loads should be moved using a handling aid if one is available
  • Make sure you are standing directly in front of the item you wish to lift
  • Check if the item has handles which you could use
  • Know where you are taking the object before you begin and make sure there is somewhere to put the load down wherever it is to be moved to
  • Make sure the route is clear of obstructions
  • Stand as close to the load as possible, and spread your feet evenly apart to shoulder width. Your leading leg should be as far forward as is comfortable and, if possible, pointing in the direction you intend to go
  • Bend your knees and try and keep the back’s natural, upright posture. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips
  • Grasp the load firmly as close to the body as you can with both hands with the heaviest side of the load towards you. If you can’t get close to the load at first, slide it towards you before you try to lift it. When holding on to something, a hook grip is less tiring than keeping your fingers straight.
  • Keeping the object close to your body, use the legs to lift the load in a smooth motion as this offers more leverage reducing the strain on your back
  • If you are carrying a large object which restricts your view, ask if someone can guide you. This will prevent you from tripping or bumping into objects
  • Carry the load close to the body with the elbows tucked into the body
  • If you have to turn, move your feet – don’t twist your trunk
  • When placing the item down, bend your legs
  • Remember to keep your back straight as you bend down again
  • It is better to push rather than pull, and to use body weight and leg muscles to do the work. Make sure the load is kept under control, particularly on slopes.

Never assume that because another workmate can lift an object without injury that it is a safe weight for you to attempt. Everyone is different and we all differ in body strength. Some places where you should take extra care:-

  • Stacking items above shoulder height
  • Carrying items up or down steps, embankments, over rails and obstacles
  • Carrying items for long distances
  • Lifting in a small or cluttered area– this could mean you have to twist or stoop

Finally, if you do suffer an injury or feel ANY pain while handling, stop immediately and report it. Make sure that the incident is recorded because it could be some hours later before you realize the true extent of the damage.

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