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Health and Safety Services

MANUAL HANDLING - Safety Policy and Guidance

1. General Statement
This policy sets out Birkbeck's arrangements to comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended).  All managers have a responsibility to ensure that this policy is implemented in their areas.

2. Definition of Manual Handling
The transporting or supporting of a load including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving it by hand or bodily force.

3. Risk Assessment
3.1 Managers - with the input of staff familiar with the work of an area - will identify and assess manual handling operations where there is the potential for the movement of hazardous loads. Guidelines on loads that may be 'hazardous' can be found on page 10 of this HSE document:

3.2  Assessment of all manual handling activities will be carried out by competent persons who may need to receive training for that task if not already competent.  The College Health and Safety Officer can provide such training on request.

3.3  Operations which are identified as 'hazardous' will be eliminated/avoided, so far as is reasonably practicable or reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable where they cannot be avoided. Measures to achieve this will include ergonomic design of the workplace and activity and the provision of automated or mechanical aids such as trolleys, hoists and conveyors plus staff training in operation assessment and safe lifting techniques.    The following factors will be considered during the assessment.

3.4  The task - Bending and stooping to lift a load significantly increases the risk of back injury. Items should ideally be lifted from no lower than knee height to no higher than shoulder height. Outside this range, lifting capacity is reduced and the risk of injury is increased. Where items are required to be lifted from above shoulder height, a stand or suitable means of access should be used. Items which are pushed or pulled should be as near to waist level as possible. Pushing is preferable particularly where the back can rest against a fixed object to give leverage.  Carrying distances should be minimised, especially if the task is regularly repeated. Repetitive tasks should be avoided wherever possible. Tasks which involve lifting and carrying should be designed in such a way as to allow for sufficient rest breaks to avoid fatigue. Avoid tasks which require twisting the body wherever possible.

3.5 The load - The load should be kept as near as possible to the trunk of the body to reduce strain and should not be of such a size to obscure vision. An indication of the weight of the load and the centre of gravity should be provided where appropriate.

Unstable loads should be handled with particular caution. The change in centre of gravity is likely to result in overbalancing. Ensure there is a secure handhold, using gloves where necessary to protect against sharp edges or splinters.

3.6 The individual - Consideration must be given to the age, body weight and physical fitness. Regard must be given to personal limitation; employees must not attempt to handle loads which are beyond their individual capability. Assistance must be sought where this is necessary.

Allowance should be made for persons with genuine physical or clinical reasons for avoiding lifting, as should pregnant women, who should not be required to undertake hazardous lifting or carrying tasks.

3.4 The working environment - There must be adequate space to enable the activity to be conducted in safety and the transportation route must be free from obstruction. Lighting, heating and weather conditions must be taken into account. Floors and other working surfaces must be in a safe condition, and adequate ventilation is required, particularly where there is no natural ventilation.

3.5 Other factors - Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) may be necessary whilst carrying out manual handling activities. If the use of PPE restricts safe and easy movement, this should be reported. Constant interruptions from other workers must be avoided as this can reduce the concentration of the individual.

4. Information and Training
Sufficient knowledge and understanding of the work is an important factor in reducing the risk of injury. Individuals undertaking lifting or carrying will be given suitable instruction, training and information to undertake the task with minimum risk. Training needs will be identified and reviewed by a responsible person e.g. a manager or supervisor. Refresher training will also be given at reasonable intervals.  Employees will be informed of approximate weights of loads which are handled and objects which have eccentric weight distribution.

Duties of Managers and Supervisors 
Managers or supervisors must ensure that:
(i)   manual handling assessments are carried out where relevant and records are kept.
(ii)  employees are properly supervised.
(iii) adequate information and training is provided to persons carrying out manual handling activities.
(iv) any injuries or incidents relating to manual handling are investigated and remedial action taken.
(v)  employees adhere to safe systems of work.
(vi) safe arrangements for manual handling operations are regularly monitored and reviewed.
(vii) employees undertaking manual handling activities are suitably screened for fitness to
undertake manual handling tasks and special arrangements are made, where necessary,
for individuals with health conditions which could be adversely affected by manual handling operations.
(viii) Staff regularly engaged in manual handling tasks should receive training in manual handling
risk assessment and safe lifting technique.  Birkbeck offers training to staff on a 1:1 or
small group basis - contact the Safety Officer to arrange.  Alternatively, an on-line training
programme, designed at Birkbeck, can be found here:

6. Duties of Employees
Employees must ensure that:

(i)   they report to management (in confidence) any personal conditions which  may be detrimentally affected by manual
       handling activity.
(ii)  they comply with instruction and training which is provided in safe manual handling techniques.
(iii) their own health and safety is not put at risk when carrying out manual handling activities
(iv) they use equipment which has been provided to minimise manual handling activities.
(v)  any problems relating to manual handling activity are reported to a responsible person.

7. Safe System of Work
Poor lifting and carrying techniques can result in discomfort and increase the risk of injury. In extreme circumstances, these injuries can have permanent effects. These risks can be reduced by adopting the following simple precautions.

(i)  report any suspected hazardous manual handling tasks to their line manager who should arrange for a formal risk 
     assessment to be carried out and a safe system of work to be drawn up.
(ii) ensure that formalised systems of work which have been designed for the work activity are complied with.
(ii)  make full and proper use of training in lifting technique and any aids to lifting and carrying,
such as trolleys and hoists.
(iv)  store heavy items between shoulder and hip height. Where possible store only small,
light items above shoulder or below knee height.
(v) use the legs and knees to bend and lift - do not stoop or bend the back.
vi)  avoid tasks which require stretching or twisting.
(vii) ensure that regular rest breaks are taken when manual handling activities are repetitive
or to prevent the onset of fatigue.
(v)  ensure that there are no sharp, hot or cold edges which could cause injury.
(vi) ensure that walkways are free from obstructions.
(vii) make full and proper use of personal protective equipment.
(viii) report any problems or concerns associated with manual handling
operations to a responsible person without delay.

April 2012

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: