Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

At present, over a quarter of all accidents reported nationally each year are associated with injuries caused during lifting and handling operations at work.  The Regulations, which came into force on 1 January 1993, are designed to reduce this total.  The University Policy has been amended to take account of newly issued Health and Safety Executive guidance.

University employees are involved in manual handling and lifting operations too numerous to list.  Those in libraries lift kilos of books each day and transport them, very often manually, to the readers.  Laboratory workers lift and handle dangerous substances and heavy and awkward items like gas cylinders.  Anyone involved in taking in deliveries into their department is likely to handle boxes, parcels and packages of different shapes, sizes and weights.  Secretarial and administrative staff are likely to do similar work.  Loads likely to cause injuries do not always cause musculo-skeletal injuries. During manual handling and lifting operations accidents can easily happen which cause injuries to the head, hands or feet.

1.  In the assessments made under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 there is a duty to identify those manual handling and lifting operations which are likely to involve a risk of injury.

2.  There is then a further duty to avoid the need for manual handling operations involving a risk of injury, so far as is reasonably practicable.  The Regulations do not ban manual handling operations, but require the University to take all reasonably practicable precautions.  (Avoidance of manual handling operations usually takes the form of redesigning the tasks or providing mechanical assistance.)

3.  Following this there is a need to make an assessment of the risks in those manual handling operations which cannot be avoided: (an assessment is simply a way of analysing the risks and pointing the way to practical solutions). Heads of Departments should designate a departmental assessor who must be trained to a University approved standard to carry out specific risk assessments.  It is acceptable for departments to share an assessor providing suitable arrangements are agreed.

The intention is to target operations liable to present a risk of injury.  These operations then need specific assessments (which should be in writing).

4.  The specific assessments should consider the following factors:

The task

- how is the load to be manipulated?

- posture (a very significant factor is to avoid twisting whilst lifting)

-  is stooping involved?

-  the distance load is to be moved

The task contd

-  the number of similar tasks to be carried out

-  how many people are involved?

The load

-  heavy?

-  bulky or unwieldy?

-  unstable?

-  sharp or difficult to grasp?

The environment 

-  amount of space around the operation

-  type of floor or work surface

-  lighting etc.

Individual capability

-  strength of person

-  man or woman and age

-  existing health problems of the employee.

5.  Reducing the risk

The assessment should decide how best to reduce the risk of injury.  A typical list of measures to consider is:

eliminate task;

automate task;

use mechanical handling aids;

share the load;

reduce the weight of individual items;

make the load easier to manage or grasp etc;

improve task layout;

use of the body more efficiently;

remove any space constraints;

improve conditions of floors etc.

The list is not exhaustive, but is meant to provide ideas.

6.  Training

The University will arrange training courses for departmental assessors.  Courses will be arranged according to need, but it is foreseeable that at times departments will have to seek suitable courses elsewhere.  (Advice and assistance in fulfilling your needs will always be available from the Safety Office.)  Assessors are strongly advised to obtain their own copy of Manual Handling - Guidance on Regulations ISBN-0-7176-2415-3.  The booklet not only contains an explanation of the Regulations themselves, but also detailed guidance on making assessments and reducing the risk of injury.

In addition, it gives two examples of assessment checklists, one a simple checklist which applies to the most basic tasks and the other a more detailed one.  Both are reproduced in Appendix 1.

The Regulations themselves do not contain any specific training requirement for those who lift and handle, but some form of training is regarded as an essential element in the preventative measures.  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations must be observed in this respect.  Serious consideration therefore should be given to introducing formal training for all those employees who carry out manual handling operations which carry a risk of injury.  The departmental assessor will be required to undertake some training tasks.  The Safety Office has a video which identifies the correct ergonomic approach to this work and departments could find it helpful to show this during training sessions.

7.  A simple flow chart explaining the requirements of the Regulations follows at Appendix 2.

8.  Summary of departmental actions:

(a)  appoint an assessor;

(b)  ensure that the assessor is properly trained;

(c)  supervisors/section heads to identify manual handling and lifting operations likely to cause injury;

(d)  eliminate those manual handling and lifting operations as far as is reasonably practicable;

(e)  carry out assessments of the remaining tasks likely to cause injury  (the significant parts of the assessments should be in writing);

(f)  make necessary changes based upon results of assessment;

(g)  report to the departmental safety committee on progress.


March 1999