What is the law on manual handling to protect employees?

All employers have a legal duty to protect their employees from injury caused by manual handling tasks. It’s a key aspect of their general responsibilities for health and safety in the workplace.
Manual Handling

It’s also good business sense. Musculoskeletal injuries account for more than a third of all workplace injuries, according to government statistics – and many are caused by incorrect manual handling. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that 47% affect the upper limbs and neck and 38% the back. MSIs are the third commonest cause of absence from work, with only minor illnesses such as the common cold and stress ranking higher.

Handling what?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR), which were updated in 2002, apply to the broadest possible definition of manual handling activities, including not only boxes, cases and other inanimate objects but also people and animals.

Regulation 4(1) of MHOR sets out a hierarchy of simple measures, designed to reduce the risks of manual handling:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable;
  • Assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided;
  • Reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.
Everything starts with the risk assessment

As with all health and safety issues, risk assessment is the primary requirement – as prescribed in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Employers’ risk assessment responsibilities expressly include manual handling tasks.

Employees also have responsibilities

Employees have general health and safety duties to:

  • Follow appropriate systems of work laid down for their safety
  • Make proper use of equipment provided for their safety
  • Co-operate with their employer on health and safety matters
  • Take care to ensure that their activities do not put others at risk

For up-to-the-minute advice on risk assessment, staying compliant with the law and protecting employees performing manual handling tasks, feel free to contact the Phoenix team at any time.