Common Manual Handling Risk Factors & How to Avoid Injury?

Jobs that include tasks which require manual handling come with an increased risk of injury. Most of these tasks cannot be avoided, but we can reduce the risk of injury from manual handling by understanding risk factors and how we can avoid injury. In this article, we discuss common manual handling risk factors, how you can avoid injury from them, as well as answering your most asked questions.

Q: What are the most common manual handling risk factors?

A: The most common risk factors for manual handling include:

  • Personal capabilities such as strength, heigh, underlying health conditions, or pregnancy
  • The environment, including tripping hazards, space available, and visibility when moving the object
  • The object itself including weight, shape, size, temperature, and how delicate it might be

Read on to find out more about why manual handling is considered to be dangerous when done without care, the risk factors involved and how to avoid injury when carrying out these tasks.

What are Common Manual Handling Risk Factors?

In any job where you undertake manual handling tasks, there are four main risk factors which need to be considered before proceeding, in order to avoid injury and make manual handling as safe as possible.

To remember the manual handling risk factors to consider, simply follow this acronym, TILE (Task, Individual, Load and Environment). We’ve outlined these individual steps in more detail below.

The Task

In this step, you need to consider the manual handling task you are undertaking and how it may affect your safety or cause injury if not undertaken correctly. Does this task require pulling, bending, sudden movements or team handling? If this task involves awkward postures or movements, or is too strenuous you should consider alternative methods, as this can lead to unnecessary injury. Alternative methods may include:

  • Employing more than one person to share the load
  • Using warehouse machinery, such as forklifts, or trolleys
  • Allowing for more time for the task to be completed, so the person can take breaks regularly

The Individual

When undertaking any manual handling task you've got to consider the individual's physical capabilities and understand that they may vary from person to person. If an individual is physically unable to perform the task or has not been trained correctly this can increase the risk of injury as you may over-exert yourself. You should also consider:

  • Pregnancy or other health conditions that may increase the danger of manual handling tasks
  • If the person is tall enough to reach items or shelves
  • If the person has had adequate manual handling training
  • The general strength or build of a person
  • If the person has time to complete the task without rushing

The Load

Manual handling is the process of transporting or supporting a load so not only do you need to consider who is completing the task, but also the actual load that you are dealing with. This may be a person if you work within the care sector, boxes, or other physical items. Whatever it may be, think about if you can physically move or support it before completing the task. Before you touch the load consider these elements:

  • How heavy is it?
  • Is the object an awkward shape to hold safely?
  • Is the temperature safe to hold, is it hot or cold?
  • Can you see over the object whilst transporting it?
  • Could the item fall apart or break whilst being transported?

The Environment

Now that you’ve evaluated the individual factors associated with the manual handling task, you now have to look at the bigger picture, and consider the environment in which you're undertaking this task. The environment can increase the risk of injury for an individual so it's critical that you evaluate your surroundings thoroughly before completion:

  • Is the floor wet or slippy?
  • Is there enough space for you to undertake this task?
  • Could you slip, trip, or fall?
  • Can you see where you are going clearly?

Whatever may prevent you from completing your task safely this is something you must consider. You may be able to amend current processes and procedures, or implement new ones to ensure that the manual handling task, and those carried out in future are as safe as possible.

If you’d like to find out more about the 4 key areas of manual handling, why not read one of our other blog posts? We cover exactly what manual handling is, why it is so critical, and the steps you must take to comply with legislation.

What is AARR in Manual Handling?

Another acronym you could use when remembering what factors to consider when undertaking a manual handling task is AARR (Avoid, Asses, Reduce and Review). This stands for:

Avoid Do you need to undertake this manual handling task or is there another way around it?
Asses If you do need to undertake this task, what is the safest way in which it can be performed?
Reduce Considering all the elements around you, how can you reduce the risk of unnecessary injury?
Review Review the whole situation and how you can develop the task with an ongoing manual handling risk assessment.

What are Common Manual Handling Injuries?

The most common injuries caused by manual handling are musculoskeletal disorders, which are disorders which affect the bones, joints and muscles. Musculoskeletal disorders can have damaging long-term effects preventing individuals from undertaking everyday activities with ease. Some of the most common injuries seen from manual handling include but are not limited to:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout or inflammatory arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteopenia
  • Back pain and back injuries
  • Cuts, bruises and fractures

UNISON reports that over 300,000 people in the UK alone suffer from back injuries caused by manual handling, so it is imperative to do everything possible to prevent both immediate and long-term injuries caused by manual handling.

Should You Complete a Manual Handling Risk Assessment?

You cannot avoid undertaking manual handling tasks within the workplace, it is inevitable in order to get certain jobs completed - but you can undertake them in a safe and responsible way in order to avoid injury and ensure you are being responsible as an employer.

Whenever there is a potential for injury in a manual handling task, you must undertake a manual handling risk assessment. This allows you to assess the key elements of the operation and determine how you can control them to reduce injury. The document will also ensure you comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992).

Not only should you complete a risk assessment for manual handling regularly, but you should also follow your workplace's procedures when completing any manual handling tasks, as well as completing Manual Handling Training every three years. You must also intuitively consider ‘TILE’ and ‘AARR’ elements that may impact you completing that specific manual handling task to ensure you are preventing any obvious risk factors.

Manual Handling Training and Risk Assessments From HSE Docs

Want to find out more about how to complete an industry-standard manual handling assessment and prevent unnecessary injury within your workplace? At HSE Docs we offer an online Manual Handling Training Course. Starting at as little as £4.99, so you can have confidence that your staff are professionally trained to industry standards and have the certification to prove it. Once completed, your certificate will last for three years and is legally recognised by local authorities and employers across the UK.

We also offer a comprehensive Manual Handling Risk Assessment for just £8.99, that highlights the potential risks and control measures to reduce the likelihood of injury occurring within your workplace.

We also offer a range of other reputable training solutions such as Diversity & Inclusion, First Aid at Work, and DSE Health & Safety. If you have any questions or queries about our training, get in touch with one of our friendly staff who are more than happy to help.

Manual Handling FAQs

What Does TILE Stand For in Manual Handling?

TILE is an acronym used to remember the risk factors you need to consider before undertaking a manual handling task. It's a step-by-step risk assessment you can conduct to help avoid injury. It stands for Task, Individual, Load and Environment.

What Are the Manual Handling Operations Regulations?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations require employers to carry out a risk assessment for any manual handling that may cause injury. It also requires an individual to take responsibility for their health and safety, as well as others around them.

Can Manual Handling Be Avoided Completely?

In short, no, manual handling tasks cannot be completely avoided. However, many manual handling tasks can be done in a safe manner which follows regulations, as well as avoiding and preventing injury.

What Does COG Stand For in Manual Handling?

COG stands for ‘Center of Gravity’ in manual handling. You need to consider the COG of the task that you are undertaking in order to give yourself a greater chance of balance control to avoid injury through things such as slips, trips and falls.