Manual Handling Regulations

The HSE brief guide to the Manual Handling Regulations is an extremely useful document, of particular relevance are the following extracts.

Good handling technique for pushing and pulling

Here are some practical points to remember when loads are pushed or pulled.

Handling devices.  Aids such as barrows and trolleys should have handle heights that are between the shoulder and waist. Devices should be well maintained with wheels that run smoothly. The law requires that equipment is maintained. When you buy new trolleys etc, make sure they are good quality with large diameter wheels made of suitable material and with castors, bearings etc which will last with minimum maintenance. Consulting your employees and safety representatives will help, as they know what works and what doesn’t.

Force. As a rough guide the amount of force that needs to be applied to move a load over a flat, level surface using a well-maintained handling aid is at least 2% of the load weight. For example, if the load weight is 400 kg, then the force needed to move the load is 8 kg. The force needed will be larger, perhaps a lot larger, if conditions are not perfect (eg wheels not in the right position or a device that is poorly maintained). The operator should try to push rather than pull when moving a load, provided they can see over it and control steering and stopping.

Slopes. Employees should get help from another worker whenever necessary, if they have to negotiate a slope or ramp, as pushing and pulling forces can be very high. For example, if a load of 400 kg is moved up a slope of 1 in 12 (about 5°), the required force is over 30 kg even in ideal conditions – good wheels and a smooth slope. This is above the guideline weight for men and well above the guideline weight for women.

Uneven surfaces. Moving an object over soft or uneven surfaces requires higher forces. On an uneven surface, the force needed to start the load moving could increase to 10% of the load weight, although this might be offset to some extent by using larger wheels. Soft ground may be even worse.

Stance and pace. To make it easier to push or pull, employees should keep their feet well away from the load and go no faster than walking speed. This will stop them becoming too tired too quickly.

Pushing and pulling

The task is within the guidelines if the figures in Table 2 are not exceeded:

Table 2


Force to stop or start the load 20 kg/15 kg

Sustained force to keep the load in motion 10 kg/7 kg

See ‘Good handling technique for pushing and pulling’ for some examples of forces required to push or pull loads.

Using the results: Do I need to make a more detailed assessment?

Using Figure 1 is a first step. If it shows the manual handling is within the guideline figures (bearing in mind the reduced limits for twisting and frequent lifts) you do not need to do any more in most cases. But you will need to make a more detailed assessment if:

■ the conditions given for using the guidelines (eg that the load can be readily grasped with both hands) are not met;

■ the person doing the lifting has reduced capacity, eg through ill health or pregnancy;

■ the handling operation must take place with the hands beyond the boxes in the diagram; or

■ the guideline figures in the diagram are exceeded.

For pushing and pulling, you should make a more detailed assessment if:

■ there are extra risk factors like uneven floors or constricted spaces;

■ the worker can’t push or pull the load with their hands between knuckle and shoulder height;

■ the load has to be moved for more than about 20 m without a break; or

■ the guideline figures in Table 2 are likely to be exceeded.


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