Manual handling responsibilities

The University expects all heads of departments to define responsibilities for key personnel involved in the management of manual handling. 

The following elements are key to achieving this standard: 

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In line with general policy, heads of department are responsible for ensuring manual handling is appropriately assessed, suitable control measures are in place, and that those involved in manual handling activities are competent to do so. To do this, heads of department can delegate responsibilities to others, provided the responsibilities are clearly communicated to appropriate individuals (e.g. supervisors) and checks are made to ensure the delegated duties are fulfilled.

On a day-to-day basis, the supervisor of a manual handling activity is best placed to manage the associated risks as they are able to decide on required changes to procedures or obtain equipment to reduce the risks. 

Supervisors should therefore:

  • eliminate manual handling and lifting operations, as far as is reasonably practicable
  • carry out assessments of the remaining tasks likely to cause injury (the significant parts of the assessments should be in writing)
  • make necessary changes based upon the results of a risk assessment
  • ensure that risk assessments are reviewed periodically
  • provide staff involved in manual handling with appropriate training
  • identify appropriate supervision to staff and students so they implement the relevant control


If the practical elements outlined in this document are used, there should be a formal process of dissemination to ensure this is forwarded to all relevant supervisors. If the department decides to modify these elements or implement a different system, then this should be documented and approved by the local safety advisory committee. The safety advisory committee should also determine:

  • who needs to receive the standards and documented systems?
  • how this will be issued to those individuals?
  • what checks will be made to ensure those individuals understand the systems?
  • what is the process and frequency of review?

This can be done either through discussions and training in the specific risk assessment or by incorporating the outcomes into local procedures or operating systems.

Those who undertake a manual handling activity must take responsibility for their own safety, as well avoiding injuring others and assisting their supervisor meet their own responsibilities. Supervisors should ensure all those under their supervision are made aware of their responsibilities in respect to manual handling. Therefore, all those who might be affected by manual handling activities must be informed of the general requirements of this policy statement and the actions they are expected to take to look after themselves and others around them.

All those carrying out a manual handling activity, including staff, students and visitors should:

  • familiarise themselves with the requirements of the relevant risk assessments
  • co-operate in any assessment they are involved with
  • inform their supervisors of any problems relating to their manual handling
  • follow all procedures or guidelines they are trained in
  • make proper use of equipment provided for their safety
  • report to their supervisor any problems or defects with the equipment provided

Although heads of department and supervisors hold executive responsibilities for managing manual handling activities safely, they can be assisted by the appointment of manual handling assessors or, where this is not the case, departmental safety officers  Where appointments are made, these must be recorded in the department’s statement of safety organisation. It's acceptable for departments to share an assessor providing suitable arrangements are agreed and documented.

As the process of completing a manual handling risk assessment involves consideration of different factors, it's sensible for departments to have nominated individuals that have received a greater degree of training in the risk assessment process. As such, a departmental manual handling assessor should be appointed. Where they're appointed, they should also report to the head of department, via local departmental safety committees, on the progress and suitability of assessments in which they've been asked to advise upon.

Manual handling assessors are unlikely to be required where the risks from manual handling in a department are not considered to be significant [Standard 3]. In those cases departmental safety officers can provide a basic level of advice or call upon the support of divisional/area safety officers to assist. 

Departmental safety officers should also help:

  • liaise with Occupational Health, as necessary
  • review manual handling activities to monitor compliance with this policy statement

Where manual handling assessors or departmental safety officers are unable to assist, then advice can be obtained from divisional or area safety officers and the University Safety Office or Occupational Health Service.