Assessing manual handling risks

One way to assess manual handling activities is to look at four specific areas – Task, Individual, Load and Environment (easily remembered by the acronym TILE).  Note that Load (i.e. weight) is only one of the four factors which determine the risks; the other three issues can be equally, or more, important, depending on circumstances.

Key factors to consider are:

  1. Task: Does the activity involve twisting, stooping, bending, reaching upwards? What is the distance the load has to be moved? How often does the load have to be moved?  Is there pushing, pulling or precise positioning of the load, sudden movement, inadequate rest or recovery periods, team handling or seated work?
  2. Individual It is important to look at each individual’s physical capability before carrying out a manual handling task. Anyone with a known injury or disability should be individually assessed. Does the individual require unusual strength or height for the activity, are they pregnant, disabled or suffering from a health problem. Is specialist knowledge or training required?
  3. Load Is the load heavy, bulky, unwieldy, difficult to grasp, sharp, hot, cold, difficult to grip, are the contents likely to move or shift?
  4. Environment Are there space constraints, uneven, slippery or unstable floors, variations in floor levels, extremely hot, cold or humid conditions, poor lighting, poor ventilation, gusty winds, cold, wet conditions; are there any restrictions on movement related to clothing or Personal Protective Equipment?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publish guidance on how to comply with the legal requirements of the Manual Handling Operations, including types of risk assessment required:

HSE leaflet

HSE Guidance document

Tasks that have a very low level of risk may not require assessment. Otherwise, it is necessary to assess the level of risk and to identify any steps required to reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. To do this, the HSE propose two levels of risk assessment.

1. A suite of tools, developed by the HSE, to review the general level of risk. These include the MAC tool (for lifting/lowering/carrying loads) and the RAPP tool (for pushing/pulling loads):

HSE MAC tool for lifting, lowering, carrying, team handling
HSE RAPP tool for pushing and pulling

2. If the use of these tools shows the risk to be high, the HSE recommend that a full specialized risk assessment is undertaken, to examine in detail all TILE factors and to identify suitable means to reduce risk.

These tools provide the basis for the risk assessment approach adopted by Network Rail
for manual handing operations carried out by their staff. The risk assessment requirements are outlined in Network Rail standard NR/L2/OHS/00106 and are supported by three risk assessment proformas:

• MHRA-F0001 Manual Handling Risk Filter Form  [to screen out low risk tasks]

• MHRA-F0002 MH Risk Assessment Form (G-MORA) [single tool combining HSE MAC and RAPP approaches]

• MHRA_F003 Specialist MHRA proforma

The latest versions can be found on the right hand side of the page.

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