Warehouses, factories, garages and many other places of business require employees to perform manual handling tasks of some description. Unfortunately, this is just a natural part of the employee’s duties in a lot of cases and, equall unfortunately, manual handling carries a risk of injury. This is especially the case if the employee doesn’t perform the task correctly.

Below is a look at manual handling and its impact on the workplace, the importance of safe manual handling, how you can achieve safe manual handling in the workplace and more. We’ll also discuss how some of our own solutions can make unavoidable manual handling safer in your workplace.

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what is manual handling?

Manual handling, as defined by the UK's health and safety body, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), means supporting or transporting a load by hand or by bodily force. This includes pushing, pulling, moving or carrying a load. The HSE describes a load as a movable object, such as a box, package, person or animal, or something that’s being pushed or pulled, such as a roll cage or pallet truck.

How does it affect my workplace?

how does it affect my workplace?

According to the HSE website, manual handling causes more than a third of all workplace injuries. These injuries include musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as arm, leg and joint pains and injuries, and injuries from repetitive strains of all sorts.

When workers don’t conduct lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling correctly, they run the risk of this type of injury.

HSE case study

The HSE website provides a short case study of a manufacturing company that stored bulk chemicals in heavy tubs on the floor or at shoulder height. Both positions subjected workers to the risk of injury, as the operators were continually reaching up and down.

The company addressed the risk by creating guidelines on the storage of heavy loads to make sure they were stored at waist height. This made lifting and handling these loads much easier.

what do I have to do to achieve safe manual handling?

The best approach is to avoid as much as possible tasks that involve manual handling. If there’s no way around it, employers must implement appropriate health and safety measures to make the task as safe as they can for the employee and prevent accidents or injuries.

Assess the risks

If you identify tasks that involve manual handling and there’s no way to remove the manual handling element from the equation, you must assess the manual handling risk to help you decide how you’ll manage the risk. You should ensure your workforce is fully involved in this risk assessment.

When evaluating risks, you should consider those arising from:

  • the task;
  • the load;
  • the working environment;
  • individual capacity;
  • any material handling equipment or handling aids you use;
  • the way you organise work or allocate it;
  • the pace of the work;
  • the frequency of the work;
  • the duration of the work.

You should also bear in mind the individual circumstances of workers who might be at risk. These include:

  • new or expectant mothers;
  • people who have disabilities that may make it hard for them to perform a task;
  • people who may have returned to work following a manual handling injury, or who are undergoing a phased return to work;
  • new, inexperienced or temporary workers;
  • older workers;
  • contract workers, home workers or solo workers;
  • workers whose first language may not be English.

Psychosocial risk factors, factors which may affect workers’ psychological responses to their work and workplace conditions, are another issue to contemplate. Examples of such factors include:

  • high workloads;
  • tight deadlines;
  • lack of control over work and/or working methods.

For lifting activities of any description you should always keep in mind:

  • individual capabilities;
  • the environmental conditions;
  • the nature of the load;
  • training;
  • and work organisation.

Lifting something manually

The HSE provides the following advice when it comes to lifting objects manually:

  • Reduce the amount of twisting, stopping and reaching.
  • Avoid lifting from floor level or from shoulder height. This is especially the case when lifting heavy loads.
  • Adapt storage areas so that you minimise the need to carry out this kind of movement.
  • Look at ways to minimise carrying distances;
  • Assess the weight and whether the workers who must handle these loads need help to move them safely, or if they can manage by themselves. Consider, too, whether it’s possible to break the load up into smaller, lighter loads.

Using lifting equipment

When it comes to using lifting equipment, there are also measures you can implement to improve the safety of operations:

  • Contemplate whether it’s possible to use a lifting aid, such as a forklift truck, an electric hoist, a hand-powered hoist or a conveyor.
  • Consider storage as a part of the delivery process. Is it possible to deliver items directly to the storage area or closer to it?
  • Reduce carrying distances where possible.

avoiding dangerous manual handling

As mentioned, ideally you want to prevent employees from having to handle loads manually as much as possible. Can you eliminate the need to handle the load manually? Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Is it possible to conduct the work in a different way?
  • Do you really need to move the item?
  • Can you redesign the task where it is so that workers can perform it more safely?
  • Can you deliver products or materials directly to the area where a worker, machine or other agent will use them?

implementing automation

If avoidance of manual handling isn’t an option, think about whether it’s possible to automate any part of the operations to remove the manual handling element. The best time to decide upon this is when you’re designing the plant and systems. When choosing whether to automate any part of your processes, here are some questions to ask:

  • Can you use material-handling equipment or mechanical aids to remove or reduce the risk you’ve identified in your risk assessment?
  • Can you use robotics technology in production lines?
  • Are you creating new risks when you introduce automation? Be careful to avoid this.
  • Have you trained your workers suitably to use any equipment you’re going to introduce?

Good handling technique for lifting

Before you lift of carry a load, there are some simple steps you can take to make the task safer:

  • Remove any obstructions or obstacles from the route.
  • If the lift is a long one, plan to rest midway along the route on a bench or table so that you can change your grip.
  • Keep the load close to your waist. Keep it as close to your body as you can for as long as you can.
  • Keep the heaviest side of the load closest to the body.
  • Adopt a stable position and keep your feet shoulder width apart. One leg should be slightly forward to maintain balance.

Think before you lift

Plan your lift. Where are you going to place the load? Can you use any handling aids? Will you need help? Remove discarded materials and any other obstructions. If you’re going to conduct a long lift, think about stopping midway for a rest and placing the load on a bench or a table so you can change grip.

Adopt a stable position

Your feet should be apart, and one leg must be slightly forward to keep your balance (alongside the load if it’s on the floor). Be ready to move your feet during the lift to maintain stability. Avoid wearing tight clothing or unsuitable footwear, which may make the lift more difficult.

Get a good hold of the load.

Where possible, hug the load as close as you can to your body. This can be better than gripping it tightly with just your hands.

Start with good posture

At the start of the lift, bend the back, knees and hips slightly. This is better than stooping, which means fully flexing the back, or squatting, which entails fully flexing the hips.

Avoid flexing the back further while lifting

This can happen if you start to straighten your legs before you start to raise the load.

Keep the load close to your waist

Keep the load as close to your body as you can while lifting it. The heaviest side of the load should go next to your body. If it’s not possible to approach the load closely, try to slide it towards your body before you try to lift it.

Don’t twist the back or lean sideways

You should especially avoid doing this while the back is bent. Keep your shoulders level and facing in the same direction as your hips. It’s better to turn by moving your feet than by twisting and lifting at the same time.

Keep your head up

When handling, keep your head up. Look ahead, not down the load, once you’re holding it securely.

Move smoothly

Don’t jerk or snatch the load. Doing so makes the load harder to control and may increase the risk of injury.

Don’t lift more than you can manage easily.

What can you lift… and what can you safely lift? There’s a difference between the two. If you have any doubts about lifting a load, ask for help or for advice. Don’t just plough on with it.

Put the load down and then adjust its position

If the position of the load must be precise, place it down first. Then slide it into the position you want.

is manual handling important?

Accidents caused by manual handling can happen anywhere in the workplace, so dealing with manual handling is incredibly important. To not address unsafe manual handling situations can have serious consequences for an employer and the person unfortunate enough to suffer an injury. Heavy manual labour, repetitive movement of the arms, legs or back, awkward postures and any previous or existing injuries can all increase the risk of injuries.

Manual handling may not seem dangerous, but it’s actually a common cause of workplace injuries, and the harm can be long term and painful.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you only have to worry about manual handling when you’re carrying large or heavy items. It’s not always about what you carry: how you carry it matters just as much. Work that entails heavy labour, such as construction, may incur a higher risk, but manual handling injuries occur in all workplaces.

manual handling legislation

As you’ll be aware, workplaces must comply with certain legal requirements and follow certain guidelines. In this respect, workplaces are no different when it comes to manual handling. They must follow certain regulations; in particular, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 as amended by the Health and Safety (Various Amendments) Regulations 2002.

Under the regulations, employers must:

  • avoid the need for employees to perform any manual handling operations that involve a risk of being hurt; or if this isn’t practical, make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the manual handling operation(s);
  • take steps to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest level possible;
  • implement measures to inform the employee performing the manual handling operation with general indications and, wherever possible, precise information on:
    • the weight of the load;
    • the heaviest side of any load of which the centre of gravity isn’t positioned centrally. 

basic principles of manual handling

When it comes to manual handling, there are some basic principles to follow so that you can work with loads safely.

Assess the task

To perform the handling safety, first assess the task. The best way to determine which is the most suitable way to handle the load is by considering the following:

  • the nature of the load;
  • the environment;
  • the ability of the person performing the task to do so: their health, their size, their age.

Plan the handling

You should make sure that the area is free of obstacles and any debris that could disrupt the smooth running of the operation. Meanwhile, your clothing should allow you to move freely. Your footwear should have flat heels, cover your toes and support your feet. You shouldn’t wear jewellery while performing the handling, in case it becomes entangled.

Position your feet

Your feet should be apart to create a wide base of support and allow you to get as close to the load as possible. You should position your feet in the direction of the procedure so you can transfer the weight of the load smoothly from one leg to the other. The centre of gravity should fall within the base of support so that you can form a more stable posture.

Grip the load securely

Make sure you have a comfortable grip before you start the lifting procedure.

Keep the load close to your body

To minimise the stress on the lumbar region, bring the load as close to your body as possible.

Maintain good posture throughout the operation

The vertebral column should align correctly with the normal spinal curvature. Keep your head up and your neck straight, and brace your abdominal muscles to support your spine.

Use your leg muscles

Bend your hips and knees to lower your centre of gravity and align your body creativity. Using the strength of your leg muscles reduces the stress on the spine.

Apply body momentum

Timing is crucial when manually handling a load so that the transfer from one person to another can be smooth. When more than one person is lifting the load, you should both agree on the timing e.g. 1…2…3… lift. One of you should become the leader and direct the process.

manual handling injuries

Manual handling can create all sorts of injuries. The risk is especially acute if you already have an existing injury or have suffered an injury previously. Below is a quick look at some of the different types of manual handling injuries

Short-term injuries

When moving loads at work, it’s easy to suffer cuts, bruises, tears, sprains and muscle sprains or similar injuries. These are usually the product of small, unexpected accidents. Dropping things, losing grip and tripping over are all examples. These injuries may heal quickly, but they can still cause the injured person and their family pain, fatigue and stress.

Musculoskeletal disorders

Although musculoskeletal disorders is a broad term for the many different types of aches and pains manual handling can cause over time, there are three main types:

  • upper limb disorders;
  • lower limb disorders;
  • and back pain.

These disorders involve damage to the body’s musculoskeletal system. This includes the muscles, bones, joints, nerves, ligaments and blood vessels, and the damage generally comes as a result of the gradual, long-term wear and tear of them, caused by repetitive, strenuous activities.

Poor manual handling practices are often to blame for musculoskeletal disorders. This is especially common for tasks that involve:

  • heavy or awkward loads (these can be inanimate, such as boxes or tools, or animate, e.g. people or animals);
  • twisting or turning and bending the back, neck or torso;
  • areas that are hard to reach and require stretching to do so;
  • working in a cramped environment and on which the flooring isn’t stable.

Mental health

Having to cope with an injury that manual handling has caused can have a major impact on your mental health. Battling with a long-term injury that is difficult to endure, and being out of work, can be demoralising. Long-term stress, anxiety and depression are often the products of an MSD.

manual handling lifting equipment

Fortunately, when it comes to lifting loads, you don’t have to do all the lifting and carrying using just your bare hands. There are plenty of pieces of equipment out there with which you can lighten the load. Here are some of the most common ones:

Sack trucks

Sack trucks, also referred to as ‘sack trollies’ or ‘sack barrows’, are one of the most common pieces of manual handling equipment you’ll find in workplaces. They’re designed to transport heavy loads using an L-shaped wedge and two handles. These trucks come in different sizes, and you’ll also come across different types, such as stair climbers, which are good if you have to transport loads up or down stairs; heavy duty sack trucks, which are more robust and built to move heavy loads easily and safely; and foldable sack trucks, which are less robust but are easier to store.

Mobile scissor lift tables

Mobile lifting tables are similar to pallet trucks and are a must in any business that requires a production line or shipping or packing tasks. These highly versatile pieces of equipment serve lots of different purposes. Naturally, their main function is to lift heavy items or bulky ones, such as pallets or white goods, but you can also use them as work surfaces in busy workshops, or to speed up production lines or packing tasks by quickly transporting the items between workstations.

In some cases, thanks to the scissor lift format, these tables can handle as much as 500 kilos. This makes dangerous manual handling tasks much safer for employees to perform.


Stacking equipment is essential in warehouses and other workplaces where lifting and stacking products on shelving is a regular requirement. This type of work places great demands on the back, arms and shoulders, which is why stackers are such an important piece of equipment.

Stackers are a little like pallet trucks and feature either a hydraulic or a manual lifting function to help employees load, lift and offload heavy items onto shelves that are difficult to reach. If a workplace receives heavy deliveries regularly and has to load them on shelves or move them from place to place, a stacker is invaluable.

making manual handling safer for you

As you can see, our systems make manual handling safer for you and your employees. They minimise the risk of injury by taking care of the lifting, so the employees don’t have to handle the loads or cargo as much. All they have to do is roll, push or pull the loads in and out of the trailer or facility once they’re on the system. This makes it much easier for them to direct the loads where they need to go.

Not only do these solutions make working with loads and cargo safer, however; they also make it more straightforward and efficient. Employees can load the cargo onto the system much more quickly, rather than make it necessary for forklift trucks to enter the trailers and, in the course of loading, make several journeys to and from the trailer.

Our solutions provide an alternative to manual handling. In this instance in which equipment such as stackers, forklift trucks or pallet trucks must be used, this is much safer. In the case of our built-in rollerbed, for example, the 6 mm steel makes the system compatible with equipment because forklift trucks and other manual handling equipment can move over them safely.

Manual handling can cause all kinds of injuries, as well as mental health problems, which is why workers must take extra care when working with loads. If you’d like to invest in one of our manual loading solutions to make manual handling at work safer for your employees, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to advise you on the right system for your requirements.

our manual loading solutions for vans, trucks, containers, warehouses and factories

We offer a variety of manual loading solutions for loading and unloading trailers, vans and containers so you can transport goods to and from where they need to be in warehouses, factories or other business premises.  Below is a look at the different manual resources we provide if you’re unable to avoid manual handling or unable to automate your loading and unloading operations.

IMG 0081

The built-in rollerbed

The Built-In Rollerbed Loading System is easy to integrate into your van or trailer and allows you to load and unload these vehicles safely. We can fit the rollerbed to your requirements.

The system can lift up to 550 kilos per module, so no matter what the size of your pallet, your system will be able to cope with it, and the built-in rise and fall pneumatic system makes it possible for the rollerbed to be able to deal with not just block pallets, but also containers and air cargo pallets. The heavy-duty steel of the rollerbed tracks means that even when not in use, the system can withstand pallet trucks and forklift trucks moving over them.

The built-in rollerbed is highly safe and doesn’t require the use of forklifts to transport the goods into the vehicle. You can just load the cargo onto the system and then roll it in and out. The rollerbed’s dual tracks reduce the amount of effort necessary to move your goods when loading or unloading the vehicle.

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Trailerloda Refrigerated Trailer

Modular rollerbed Systems

The Modular Rollerbed Systems are, as the name suggests, features a modular design and you can fit it comfortably into your van, trailer, warehouse or factory. All you need is a flat surface. The system is pre-built and won’t call for any major modifications to your vehicle or existing structures. Just choose from a range of sizes and we can then install it for you in the space of a few hours.

The system is suitable for standard pallets, air cargo and ULD containers, and you can roll the goods in and out on the rollerbed without the need for a forklift truck. When you wish to use the system, you lift the rollers; when you don’t, you lower them; and this keeps the rollerbed safe. Thanks to the twin tracks, workers will also find it easier to move the goods in and out of the vehicle or the facility.

Modular Rollerbed Systems
MRS For Warehouse, Pushing The Load

Modular Rollerbed for Warehouses

The Modular Rollerbed for Warehouses is ideal for transforming your facility into a cargo transit station. The rollerbed’s pre-built nature means that it comes with the aluminium platform and built-in pneumatic rise and fall roller tracks already. You just have to decide where you’d like to set up the system, which is perfectly possible on a concrete warehouse floor, and we’ll fit it for you.

This system will transform your warehouse in hours and is extremely safe, allowing you to load, unload and transport cargo around your warehouse. It’s a superb system if you’re looking to add new air cargo handling capability or increase your existing one.

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S&T 3

Skate and track

The Skate and Track Loading System eliminates the need for forklift trucks or pallet trucks to enter the cargo space. If you don’t have a dock leveller, the skate and track serves as the ideal solution.

The system employs a set of manually operated skates that run on a set of tracks built into the floor of the trailer or container. You can then simply push the loads into the truck, or unload them from the back of the truck, without the aid of a forklift truck.

This is a heavy duty system that can handle lots of different types of loads, including pallets, drums, machinery, newsprint rolls and more. Its skates can lift pallets/reels up to 3.5 tonnes. It only takes one person to operate this system, which they can do with minimal effort, although when handling palletised loads or heavy containers, you may wish to back them up with a forklift truck.

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Excel Line 42

Container loading system

Our Container Loading System is similar to the skate and track system, but has added hydraulics. The system is designed especially for loading sea and box containers, can handle up to 27 tonnes and you can load pallets from 1.2 metres up to 13.2 into your container.  

The system skates run down a steel track set on the container and platform floor. The pump elevates the track; the track lifts the skate and, in turn, lifts the load clear of the platform. You can then transfer the load easily into the container or from out of it.


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Excel Line 36

Container lifting system

We don’t just offer solutions to help you load your container, however; we can also provide you with a system to lift them. Our ‘MDS’ Container Lifting System helps you lift sea containers or box ones from the chassis to the ground, or vice versa, and levels the container with the loading platform. The system is lightweight but can cope with up to 35 tonnes.

The MDS has a modular design that makes its operation simple, and it only takes one person to conduct the lift. Four hydraulic jacks are attached, one to each corner of the container, by a 1 tonne forklift truck, and then to the castings. These jacks are connected to each other and are powered by a 440 v 3-phase power supply. The system is extremely safe because of the way it’s connected.

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