Manual handling control measures

The University expects all heads of departments to ensure appropriate control measures are identified and implemented for manual handling activities and to make sure any lifting equipment used is suitable and fit for purpose.

The hierarchy of control for selecting appropriate control measures for manual handling is:

  1. avoid the need for manual handling
  2. reduce the load risk by using lighter weights or more stable containers
  3. reorganise the activity or environment to further reduce the impact on the individual(s)
  4. utilise mechanical lifting aids or equipment
  5. ensure appropriate rest breaks, job rotation and training is involved
  6. provide personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, foot protection, non-slip footwear)

The assessment should decide how best to reduce the risk of injury. This should be based on the following hierarchy of control. For any manual handling risk identified, the first step is to ask whether the actual manual handling can be avoided.

Expand All

Can the manual handling be avoided? For instance, when a new piece of equipment is being delivered, can the risks be ‘transferred’ to the company who is delivering the item? It's often possible to ask the supply company to deliver to the point of use, rather than to the entrance door or goods-in. This may incur a cost, but the delivery company are more likely to have designated lifting equipment and individuals who are trained in the activity, thus reducing the risk placed on University personnel.

Similarly, removal companies are available, and are often best placed, to undertake high-risk manual handling activities. Specialist removal companies also exist to assist with items that not only pose a risk from lifting, but from other hazards as well, such as chemicals or electrical machinery.

Other options may include keeping heavy loads in a single location and working around them, rather than moving items around buildings. For example, it might be possible to decorate or refurbish rooms whilst leaving certain items in the room, but by sheeting over and building protection around the item.

Is it possible to purchase items in smaller weights or bags? Many departments have already gone down this route for regular deliveries of materials, such as bulk food supplies, chemicals or stationary. 

If it's not possible, or reasonable, to purchase items in smaller weights or bags, can you separate the load into small weights? For example, emptying files from a heavy storage box into two separate boxes.

If not, is it possible to reduce the risks by utilising trays or containers that help make the load more stable and easier to move?

Similar to removing the risk entirely, a simple solution for many manual handling risks is to reorganise room layouts or improve housekeeping. This will help move heavier items to within reach and as such, improve the ability to grasp an item or lift without overstretching in anyway.

Manual Handling Scenario 1
Manual Handling Scenario 2


There are plenty of options now available to assist with lifting or moving objects. These can be summarised in the following categories:

  • powered trucks, such as pallet trucks, forklift trucks or stair climbers. As mechanical lifting aids, there will be specific requirements for training, maintenance, and inspections. However, these will greatly reduce the risk of injury to those moving items, especially if used in conjunction with suitable personal protective equipment (i.e. safety footwear, hand protection)
  • hoists, scissor lifts, or vacuum lifting devices. These are common within workshops, but could also be helpful in delivery points or for moving large items around buildings. Again, there is likely to be specific requirements for training, maintenance, and inspections
  • non-powered trucks, such as trolleys, sack trucks, cylinder trolleys, dolly or temporary wheels. The operator will need a degree of training in their safe and appropriate use. There may also be requirements for regular checks/inspections and personal protective equipment
  • tracks and Conveyors, such as roller tracks or specially designed ‘smooth’ surfaces. For routine activities, such as moving boxes or crates around a localised space, it may be possible to introduce roller tracks, or similar, to reduce the friction of sliding the boxes, thus avoiding lifting entirely

If manual handling cannot be avoided to any great extent, then individuals will need some instruction on how to lift without avoiding injury. This is particularly true when individuals are lifting together or on a regular basis. 

This also needs careful consideration of the individuals' own capability and needs. For routine tasks, it will be appropriate to introduce regular breaks for recovery and to avoid fatigue. Similarly, manual handling activities should be planned to avoid any unnecessary rushing or poor practice.

Hand and foot protection are often required for manual handling. Hand protection can help ensure a good grip, as well as protecting against other hazards or fatigue. Appropriate foot protection helps avoid injury from inadvertently dropping items or by simply ensuring individuals lifting have sufficient stability before lifting.