Manual Handling

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Manual Handling Construction Workers

Manual handling means to transport or support a load by lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving. The load can be an object, person or animal.

Not all manual handling is harmful; however, it can be hazardous if it:

  • is performed incorrectly
  • requires lifting heavy objects
  • requires reaching for objects above shoulder height
  • places too much stress on certain parts of the body
  • is done repetitively without any rest breaks or changes in activity

The risk of injury from manual handling depends on a number of factors. These include the size, shape and weight of the load, how far the load needs to travel, how long the handling task takes, and the individual’s posture and technique.

When a worker is harmed in the workplace, this not only impacts productivity and costs the business money, it affects people’s lives and limits their future employment opportunities.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employers must take all reasonable and practical steps to reduce the risk of work related injuries through risk assessment, education, and stopping unsafe work practices. Employers who fail in their safety obligations may face investigation and steep fines. In 2016, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) received a total of 50,000 work related claims for lifting, carrying and strain injuries, making manual handling one of the leading causes of injuries in the workplace.

What causes manual handling injury?

Some of the most common tasks that cause manual handling injuries are:

  • lifting heavy boxes
  • pushing or pulling trolleys with heavy loads
  • reaching for heavy objects above the shoulders
  • standing in one stance or body position for too long
  • too much twisting and turning
  • not enough breaks


Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employers or persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) have a primary duty of care to reduce the risk of injury caused by manual handling. To adhere to legislation, employers need to create an injury management system and ensure workers are up to date on safe manual handling practices.

As each workforce has different manual handling guidelines, the injury management system should be tailored to the activities performed in that workplace. This helps workers understand the expectations of their role and prevent any misunderstandings causing problems later.


Here are some useful guidelines to consider when creating an injury management system:

  • educate employees on safe manual handling practices, such as only lifting objects between shoulder and hip levels
  • provide mechanical aids and equipment for all workers, making sure they are used correctly and maintained according to their manufacturer standards
  • position shelves and racking at accessible heights
  • make sure service counters and food preparation benches are between hip and waist height
  • give employees plenty of breaks to stretch and recover
  • don’t request employees undertake long periods of repetitive tasks or work that requires large amounts of force
  • for healthcare facilities, avoid the manual lifting of patients by using mechanical aids, hoists and wheelchairs

For further advice on how to manage manual handling in the workplace, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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