Plant & Works Engineering

Getting a grip on manual handling

Published:  15 November, 2007

Getting a grip on manual handling


Every year thousands of workers are injured when manually lifting, lowering and carrying loads.  PWE looks at how employers can make sure that their employees have the skills, resource and understanding to minimise the risk of injury.


UK law obliges companies to take action to prevent injury as a result of manual handling activities such as lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. With thousands of people affected by workplace injury each year, manual handling has become a top priority for any employer. The associated injuries mostly affect the back but can also cause problems with limbs, muscles, tendons and even the heart. In fact, more than a third of all over-3-day injuries reported to the HSE are connected with manual handling while personal injury cases and lost working days can prove costly for the employer.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) established the following clear hierarchy of control measures:

  1. Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable, for example by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.
  2. Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  3. Reduce the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Where possible, you should provide mechanical assistance, for example a sack trolley or hoist. Where this is not reasonably practicable, look at ways of changing the task, the load and working environment

Ian Marshall, National Training Manager for Barloworld Handling explained to PWE: "It is important that businesses assess the risks that they place on their employees through work related tasks.”

Barloworld Handling provides risk assessments to help identify problem areas and recommends courses of action businesses can take to reduce the risk of accident or injury in line with their duties.  Responsibility, however, remains with the employer at all times.

He continued: “Employers have to be realistic in their approach to educating the workforce.  It's not just about showing them how to lift a box properly, employees have to understand all the variables and why correct manual handling is important.”

Barloworld conducts half to two day 'kinetic" courses at its own network of training centres or onsite in the employees working environment.

“We believe equipment is secondary to training, purely because employees have to understand the value in using equipment correctly.  We can all take short cuts to get a job done quickly which is why employees have to understand the company policy and the risks.”

The HSE recommends that employees use machines and handling aids to take the strain.  Below are just a few examples of equipment that could help:


Conveying systems

Skatewheel, roller or belt conveyors can be designed and manufactured to solve all types of handling problems with different heights, widths and load ratings.  Conveyors help transfer items over short or long distances and can be mobile, inclined or telescopic for mobile vehicle loading.


Levelling tables / scissor tables

A levelling table/scissor table can help maintain a pallet at an operator’s preferred working height. This helps to eliminate the bending caused when pallets are positioned on the floor until loaded or unloaded.  Such machines can lift and lower a pallet with or without power helping to reduce walking, reaching, stretching, bending and squatting activities and also reduce the time taken to load and unload a pallet.


Hand trucks and sack trucks

For a multitude of uses, hand trucks and sack trucks provide the solution for a number of different handling needs.  Available in all different configurations with a choice of tyres, capacities and materials, such simple equipment can help to reduce manual handling injuries.


Panel and Platform trucks

Ideal for use in warehouses and order picking environments, hand drawn panel and platform trucks can be configured to suit particular handling needs.  Battery electric versions are also available.


Trucks, trolleys and drum handlers

There are hand drawn trucks and trolleys available for any sort of handling application. Turntable trucks for example can be designed to carry bulky loads over long distances with large wheels for uneven surfaces or hinged side panels. Drum handlers are designed to make the tilting, manoeuvring and revolving of 200L drums a simple task.


Cylinder Handling

For handling gas bottles, 2 tier lockable security cages provide easy manoeuvrability and safe handling with clear visibility.



Available as manual or battery electric models, stackers help lift pallets to height contributing to reduced operator fatigue and associated bending when loading and unloading pallets. Stackers also allow operators to manoeuvre the load to stacking areas and can help safely stack empty pallets.


Folding cranes

In a workshop environment, a manual, hydraulic crane can help staff move heavy items.


Lifting machines

Lifting machines help to save both time and effort in a variety of applications from lorry loading to construction work. Available winch operated, CO2 or compressed air powered, lifting machines contribute to safer handling at height.



For pushing or pulling heavy loads where perhaps a ‘team’ would have previously manually handled the load, an electric tug could be used instead.  A tug is usually small in size with the ability to move up to 64,000Kg with only one operator.


Forklift trucks

In some applications, forklift trucks have been the solution to manual handling problems. From pallet trucks and warehouse equipment to diesel counterbalance trucks, Barloworld has the product to meet every need.  For awkward shapes, there is an attachment that can suit almost every handling need to ensure that workers do not have to manually handle heavy or awkward loads.


As the equipment highlighted above demonstrates, there are a variety of solutions to help employers reduce the risk of manual handling injuries but the first step to managing the risk is to assess the operation and understand where the risks are.  Training of staff is then a key element before implementing any equipment in the operation.


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