The Office Safety Company

Manual Handling

More than 25 percent of all reportable injuries in the work place are caused by manual handling.

An estimated average of 11 working days per sufferer were lost through musculoskeletal disorders affecting the back, caused by manual handling injuries at work, costing employers up to £335 million a year (HSE).

Many manual handling injuries build up over a period rather than being caused by a single handling incident and they occur throughout all walks of working life including offices.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 came into force on 1 January 1993 and are aimed at reducing the high incidence of injuries arising from the manual handling of loads at work.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations place duties upon employers in respect of their own employees and apply to work activities included in the office environment.

“Manual handling operations” is interpreted as:

…any transporters or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force.

Reg. 4 sets out 3 measures in order of importance:

Reg. 4 (1)(a)

Avoid manual handling operations which involve a risk of injury, so far as is reasonably practicable.

This means check whether you need to move it at all! There are often ways around having to move heavy loads.

Reg. 4(1)(b)(i)

Assess all such operations which cannot be avoided.

This means carrying out risk assessments for manual handling activities that create particular risks in the office. Guidance on this section and the forms needed can be found in The BSS Health & Safety Manual.

Reg. 4(1)(b)(ii)

Take steps to reduce the risk of injury during those operations to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

Consider mechanical assistance — in office environments this will often mean trolleys or other simple carrying equipment.

It is the duty of the employer to make the assessment. A ‘generic’ assessment is usually acceptable for the office environment unless there are specific and routine risks to consider.

Employees can often help employers carry out the assessment — they often know what problems there are and how best to address them. Problems will be typically based upon weight of loads, strains twisting or contortion of the body. The environment around them and the route of carriage is also an issue.

It is advisable that assessments are recorded, generic formats can be found in The BSS Office Safety Manual.

The employer’s assessment may find that one of the steps required to reduce the risk of a manual handling is to train office staff in the safe handling of loads.

Guidance to office staff can be afforded by training and posters. These can indicate how to recognise harmful manual handling, appropriate systems of work, use of mechanical aids, good handling technique. Training is important but on its own, it can’t overcome unsuitable loads and poor working conditions.

Employees’ manual handling duties in the office environment

  • Follow written/trained work procedures provided for their safety
  • Always use equipment provided for their safety
  • Work with their employer on health and safety matters
  • Inform the employer if they identify hazardous handling activities
  • Ensure that their activities do not put others at risk

Further info

Health and Safety Executive leaflets:


Disclaimer: The Office Safety Company have provided the ‘Quick Guides’ on the basis that the content and advice contained within these documents is to the best of our knowledge accurate at the time of publication. The Office Safety Company does not accept any liability for the accuracy of the information provided in the ‘Quick Guides’.