Is lifting a problem in our industry??

More than 25 % of the accidents reported to enforcing authorities each year are associated with manual handling - transporting or supporting of loads by hand or by bodily force.

I can confirm that, in the 50 or so golf courses & playing fields with which I am associated, these figures are borne out!!.

Fatal accidents are rare but sprains & strains especially of the back are the most common and result in many cases in over-three-day injuries which will require reporting under RIDDOR to the enforcing authorities.

Many manual handing problems are cumulative rather than being able to be attributed to any particular incident. One of the main problems is that complete recovery is not always possible and the operator is left with a 'weak back' and many simple physical tasks will prove to be impossible for him/ her in the future.

The modern approach to manual handling is ERGONOMICS - the fitting the job to the person, rather than the person to the job - the ergonomic approach looks at nature of the task, the load, the working environment and the individual capability.

There are some clear steps which we can take immediately:

  1. substitution and elimination - avoid hazardous manual handling so far as reasonably practicable - in our industry the basic approach should be to lighten the load e.g. - order fertiliser in 25 kg bags not in 50kg bags - order pesticides or liquid fertiliser in a maximum of 20 litre containers instead of 45 gallon containers - load compost on trailers with a front loader rather than by hand.
  2. Use lifting equipment where possible e.g. fork lift trucks, front loaders, barrows, pallet lifters. Look at the construction of the store - height and depth of shelves, accessibility
  3. Use the correct PPE suited to task e.g. toe-tected boots, suitable gloves to give good grip and protection against sharp edges, coverall to ensure the operator will hold the load close to his/ her body rather than attempt to hold it away.


The regulations require us to make a suitable assessment of any manual handing operations that cannot be avoided. We must reduce injury but the regulations give no specific weight limits on what can be handled but do give guidance.

A complete assessment of every task would be onerous and it suggested that a pre-assessment is carried out to filter the trivial tasks out - but remember even trivial tasks in the right (or wrong ) circumstances can lead to problems!!!

When considering the tasks it should be borne in mind what the regulations require - the Load must be a discrete moveable object , being moved by human effort.

For transporting or supporting an implement tool or machine - such as a chainsaw - is not considered a load while in use for its intended purpose. The action of pulling on a rope while lashing down a cargo on the back of a vehicle or pulling a starter of a mower are not covered by manual handling - the Assessment of these is covered under the Use of Equipment Regulations and /or under the Welfare Regulations. Personally, I am more interested in doing an assessment and reducing risk than I am which regulation I am require to assess under!!! There are however specific considerations which must be considered under the different regulations.


The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 require employers

  1. to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees while at work
  2. avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as reasonably practicable
  3. assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided and reduce the risk of injury so far as reasonably practicable.

Such duties are satisfied if the employer can show that the cost of any further preventative steps would be grossly disproportionate to the further benefit that would accrue from their introduction! Monitoring & re-assessment is also to be carried out.

Basically the first thing we must do is identify, in our workplace, the manual handling hazards ( manual handling operations with the potential to cause harm when carried out )

MANUAL HANDLING HAZARDS - things to be handled and occasions lifting occurs

The load itself has to be looked at from various points of view

It is on the basis of this, we will carry out a Manual Handling Assessment.

Further reading

HSE Manual Handling Guidance