Manual Handling Regulations 1992

The Manual Handling Regulations 1992 were introduced to help reduce the number of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) caused by employees' manual handling accidents, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling loads at work.

Around a third of all MSD cases are manual handling injuries, with 40% of injuries affecting the back and 40% the upper limbs.

Elevated rates of MSD occur in workers employed in agriculture, on construction sites, in health and social care; and in the transportation and storage industries.

An estimated 9.5 million days were lost due to work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in 2014/15, representing 40% of all work-related ill-health.

Where do the regulations apply? 

Where there is the possibility that an employee may be injured, employers have a duty to remove manual handling tasks where reasonably possible. This may mean making modifications to how a task is completed, such as using machinery to lift or carry a load instead.

Where it is not possible to avoid manual handling the employer must reduce the risk of injury as far as is “reasonably practicable”. The employer must carry out a risk assessment to understand how the task is to be performed and what may go wrong; by identifying the potential hazards the employer should be able to minimise the risks by implementing measures to complete the task more safely.

For example this might mean introducing a new procedure to either use certain tools or to enlist the help of other employees.

Where an employee has been engaged in manual handling activities and complains of discomfort the employer must make changes to the employee’s work practices to avoid or reduce further manual handling. 

The employee must be monitored to ensure the changes are having a positive effect; however if the modifications to his work practices are not working satisfactorily, alternatives must be considered. 

Guidance on the Manual Handling Regulations is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which includes a checklist to help assess the risks posed by workplace pushing and pulling activities.

Typical injuries caused by manual handling

Employees who handle large or bulky items, and are injured as a result, may be eligible to make a back injury claim.

This may be caused by muscle damage or by injuries to the vertebrae. Slipped discs, which occur when increased pressure and strain is put on the spine through heavy or awkward lifting, may take 4 to 6 weeks to recover from.

An employee may sustain injuries to the arm and shoulder if he is required to carry or pull heavy equipment. Muscle and ligament strains are common in those whose job involves manual handling.

In addition to MSDs, lifting and handling heavy objects may also result in an employee developing a hernia, especially where abdominal muscles are weakened.

How can employees avoid manual handling injuries?

Several factors may influence the safety of manual handling; the working environment, the available facilities and the employees themselves. For this reason, the Regulations do not stipulate any limits to the weights that may be handled by workers.

Therefore employees must take reasonable care to ensure their own health and safety and that of their colleagues. 

Where appropriate work systems are in place, these should be followed; this includes the proper use of any equipment provided for employees’ safety.

Co-operating with their employer on health and safety matters and informing the employer of any potentially hazardous handling activity will help all workers meet their health and safety duties and reduce workplace injuries.

Can you claim compensation for a manual handling injury?

Manual handling injuries may be very painful and you may be incapacitated for some time as the result of an injury.

If your injury was caused by lifting or moving a heavy load at work you may be eligible to bring a claim for work-related personal injury.

Any award paid will be to compensate you for your pain and suffering and to reimburse any losses. For example, if your injury means you are unable to work for a time, you may be able to claim for this loss or earnings. You may also be able to claim for travel costs to and from hospital and treatment appointments, and for the cost of treatment or physio itself.