CPR First Aid

Safe Manual Handling Techniques

What is manual handling?

Manual handling is the cause of 28% of all workplace injuries in the state of Victoria.

The term “manual handling” refers to a wide variety of actions, such as carrying, lifting, pushing, and pulling, as well as holding, restraining, and throwing. Manual handling operations entail performing tasks in a repetitive manner, such as packing, typing, assembling, cleaning, and sorting, as well as using hand tools, operating machinery and equipment, and handling animals and restraining them.

Even though not every aspect of manual handling poses a risk, the fact that the vast majority of jobs in Australia and throughout the world require some kind of manual labour means that almost all employees are exposed to at least some level of danger.

However, research indicates that the most effective way to prevent manual handling injuries is to make changes to the design of the workplace. Good posture and proper lifting techniques can help reduce the risks, but these measures are not enough.

Source: Victorian State Government Education and Training

Why is it essential to properly know manual handling?

Work-related injuries sustained as a result of manual handling can have severe repercussions on the body. It can affect, not only for the person who was injured, but also for their employer. Heavy manual labour, awkward postures, repetitive movements of the arms, legs, and back, as well as previous or existing injuries, can all increase the risk of these kinds of accidents in the workplace. They can happen almost anywhere.

Manual handling injuries can be severe for workers & employers. Heavy labor, awkward postures, repetitive motions, and past injuries escalate risks.

What is needed to keep in mind in manual handling?

You should do everything in your power to avoid manual handling tasks in the work environment, as this will help reduce the risk of injuries. However, when it is not possible to avoid handling a load, employers are obligated to perform a risk assessment with the task at hand and implement reasonable health and safety measures in order to protect their employees from getting hurt. Always keep in mind the following considerations for any lifting activity:

  • Individual capacity and the conditions of the environment.
  • The organisation of manual handling training for workers. Ensure all employees understand the correct manual handling techniques.
  • If you have to manually lift something, you should try to avoid twisting, stooping, and reaching as much as possible. Keeping a firm grip with shoulders level and the back straight are ideal safe manual handling technique.
  • When handling and lifting heavy loads, especially from the floor or above shoulder height, this should be avoided.
  • Keep the heaviest side of the load close to the body.
  • Make necessary adjustments to storage areas to reduce the number of times you’ll have to go through these motions.
  • Think about ways to cut down on the distances you have to carry.
  • Evaluate the weight of the load that needs to be carried, as well as the worker’s ability to move the load safely and whether or not the worker requires any assistance; perhaps the load can be broken down into smaller, lighter components.
  • If you have to use lifting equipment, you should think about whether or not you can use a lifting aid or handling aid instead, such as a forklift, an electric or hand-powered hoist, or a conveyor.
  • Consider the role that storage plays in the delivery process; for example, bulky items might be able to be brought in closer to or delivered directly to the storage area. In addition, ensure that there are no obstructions on the path to the storage area.
  • Cut down on the carrying distances whenever you can.

Source: Better Health

Evaluation of the dangers involved in manual handling

The next thing that needs to be done is an analysis to determine which factors add to the risk of manual handling. The following are examples of common risk factors that can increase the likelihood of suffering an injury:

  • The weight of an object.
  • A heavy load may be difficult to lift and carry the location of an object.
  • Heavy objects that have to be lifted awkwardly, for example, above shoulder height or from below knee level duration and frequency.
  • Working in a fixed posture for a prolonged period of time type of work.
  • Working in a posture that does not allow for movement for an extended period of time layout of the workspace.
  • A cramped or poorly designed workspace can force people to assume awkward postures, such as bending.
  • Increasing the number of times an object is handled or the length of time for which it is handled condition of an object.
  • More effort may be required to manipulate poorly designed or poorly maintained equipment awkward loads.
  • The inability to maintain a firm grip on the load. These include loads that are difficult to grasp, are slippery, or take an awkward shape.
  • Lifting or restraining a person or animal can cause sprains and other injuries handling a live person or animal.

Analyze to find factors increasing manual handling risk.

A competent method of lifting and moving objects

Before and during lifting or carrying, there are a few easy things to remember to do:

  • Always keep good manual handling techniques in mind.
  • Take away any obstacles that are in the way.
  • If it requires time to lift, plan to change your grip by setting the load down on a table or bench halfway through the lift.
  • Maintain a position where the load is close to your waist. When lifting, it is important to keep the load as close to the body as possible for as long as possible.
  • Always make sure the heavier part of the load is next to your body.
  • Adopt a stable position and make sure your feet are apart; in order to maintain balance, slightly advance one leg from its normal position.
  • Think before lifting/handling. Make plans for the lift. Are aids in handling available for use? Where will the load be positioned once it has been moved? Will you need assistance in carrying the load? Take away any obstacles, such as used wrapping materials that have been thrown away. If you have a long lift ahead of you, consider changing your grip by setting the load down on a table or bench halfway through the lift.

During lifting or carrying, mind posture, technique, and weight distribution.

Take a steady position

To maintain balance, the feet should be slightly separated, and one leg should be slightly advanced (alongside the load, if it is on the ground). In order to keep your balance while lifting, you should get used to moving your feet around. Steer clear of clothing that is too constricting and footwear that is not suited to the task at hand.

Get a good grip

If at all possible, the load should be carried so that it is as close to the body as possible. Taking a firm hold of it with just your hands might not be the best strategy.

Get into a good starting posture

At the beginning of the lift, it is preferable to start with a slight bend in the back, hips, and knees rather than stooping all the way forward with the back completely flexed or fully bending the hips and knees (squatting).

Avoid bending your back any further than necessary

It’s possible for this to occur if the legs start to straighten out before the lift is even begun. This will help to reduce any back injuries.

Maintain a position where the load is close to your waist

When lifting, keep the load as close to the body as you can for the majority of the time. Always make sure the heavier part of the load is next to your body. Before attempting to lift the load, you should see if you can first slide it closer to your body if you are unable to get a close enough approach to it.

Avoid twisting or leaning sideways

Avoid bending your back in a way that causes you to twist or lean sideways, especially while your back is bent. Shoulders need to be brought down to the same level as the hips and turned in the same direction. It is preferable to turn by moving the feet as opposed to twisting the body while lifting at the same time.

Keep your head up

When you are handling it, make sure to keep your head up. Once you have the load securely held, you should look ahead of you rather than down at the load.

Maintain a steady motion

It is important to avoid jerking or snatching the load because doing so can make it more difficult to maintain control and can increase the risk of injury.

Do not attempt to lift or handle more than you are able to easily control.

There is a distinction to be made between what people are capable of lifting and what they can lift safely. If in doubt, seek advice or get help.

Make adjustments if necessary

Place, then readjust as necessary. Put the load down first, and then slide it into the position you want it to be in. This is necessary if the positioning of the load needs to be precise.

Source: Health and Safety Executive


Manual handling is the process of moving or manipulating objects by human effort, rather than using machinery. It includes activities such as lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling. These tasks can be hazardous if not carried out correctly and can lead to manual handling injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) such as back pain and repetitive strain injuries. However, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to reduce the risks associated with manual handling.

Firstly, it is important to take a steady position when carrying out manual handling activities. This means adopting a posture that is upright and balanced, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Secondly, you should get a good grip on the object you are lifting, using both hands if possible.

Thirdly, it is important to lift the object without twisting, bending backwards or leaning sideways. Fourthly, you should only attempt to lift objects that are within your capabilities – if an object is too heavy or awkward to lift safely, ask for assistance from another person or use mechanical aids such as hoists or trolleys. By following these simple tips, you can help to ensure that manual handling activities are carried out safely and effectively.

We hope this article has helped to highlight the importance of learning proper manual handling techniques. It’s crucial for both your safety and the safety of those around you that these techniques are mastered. Safe Work Australia provides codes of practice that all businesses should follow. These include the correct and safe manual handling procedures.

If you would like to learn more about how to respond in a first aid emergency, CPR First Aid offers first aid courses across Australia. Our newest venue is in Cheltenham. Book in today and be prepared for any eventuality. 



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