Manual handling activities cause a third of accidents in British workplaces, so employers must manage and control the risks to employees. Employers’ responsibilities are covered in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR). This guide answers common questions.
What are the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992?
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR), as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002, cover the responsibilities of employers, managers, safety representatives and employees for controlling and reducing the risk of injury in the workplace due to manual handling operations.
Injuries caused by manual handling are part of a wider group known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These injuries and conditions can cause pain to the back, muscles, tendons and ligaments, joints, and limbs.
Employers should also be aware of their general responsibilities for health and safety, including manual handling, as outlined in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Read our in-depth Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 guide to learn how it applies to you.
What is the definition of manual handling?
MHOR defines manual handling as “any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force”.
The load can be a moveable object such as a box or package or something being pushed or pulled, such as a roll cage or pallet truck. It can also be a person or an animal.
What do the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 cover?
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992, employers must assess the risks to their employees’ health and safety. If hazardous manual handling of loads is identified, you also need to comply with MOHR.
The Health and Safety Executive defines the responsibilities of employers under MOHR in three steps. They must:
- Avoid hazardous manual handling operations ‘so far as reasonably practicable’.
- Assess the risk of injury to employees from unavoidable hazardous manual handling.
- Reduce the risk of injury to employees from hazardous manual handling to as low as reasonably practicable.
Why are the regulations needed?
The official statistics show why the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 are needed.
Manual handling activities cause a third of accidents at work in Britain. Of the 60,645 non-fatal injuries reported in 2022/2023 under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), 17% were due to handling, lifting or carrying, while 11% were as a result of people being struck by a moving object.
Discover what RIDDOR is and why RIDDOR reporting is important in our expert guide.
Back pain is one of the most common manual handling injuries, and hundreds of thousands of employees suffer from it every year. Employees can experience extreme pain, which causes them to be temporarily unable to do their job. It can also lead to permanent chronic injuries.
Multiple causal factors can lead to the onset of pain from a single activity or an accumulative effect from repeated manual handling operations over time. An individual may experience chronic pain that restricts and impacts their daily life and can also affect the organisation they work for in terms of claims, enforcement fines, lost working hours, costs and reduced productivity.
What are employers’ responsibilities under the regulations?
Under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, employers must carry out risk assessments for manual handling tasks. They can carry out the risk assessment themselves or engage an external resource. In either case, the assessor must be ‘competent’. The Health and Safety Executive has example assessment checklists you can download.
A risk assessment should identify hazardous manual handling tasks and develop measures to eliminate manual handling or implement controls to prevent injuries. It should look at the task being carried out, who is doing it, the type of load being handled, and the environment in which the task is taking place.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also requires employers to carry out risk assessments and put in place measures for managing, controlling and reducing workplace risks. This includes manual handling and other related risks such as upper limb disorders (ULDs).
The risk factors employers should consider can be categorised as task, individual, load and environment, known by the acronym TILE. It is sometimes referred to as LITE, which stands for the same words but in a different order.
Employers are legally obliged to provide employees with training, such as through a manual handling course, when risks of injury are identified. The training can be generic and should also relate to the findings from the risk assessment.
What are employees’ responsibilities under the regulations?
As with all health and safety laws in the UK, the primary responsibility under manual handling legislation rests with employers.
However, under MHOR regulation 5 employees have a responsibility to make ‘full and proper use’ of the health and safety systems their employer has put in place. They also have a responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to take care of their own health and safety and ensure their workplace actions do not put themselves or others at risk.
In short, employees must use the equipment provided by their employer safely. They must also cooperate with their employer and fellow employees to ensure legal obligations are met, and the controls and systems of work defined in the risk assessments are used.
Do the regulations apply to the self-employed?
The regulations state that self-employed individuals are responsible for their own safety during manual handling activities. They should take the same steps to protect themselves and control the risks as employers are required to do for their employees.
Under certain circumstances, employers may be responsible for the health and safety of someone defined as self-employed for tax and National Insurance reasons but who works under the employers’ direction.
The Health and Safety Executive has more information on the health and safety responsibilities of the self-employed.
Is manual handling training a legal requirement?
Employers are legally required to provide health and safety training to employees. A risk assessment for manual handling is likely to highlight a need for training for employees who have to lift, lower, carry, push or pull loads or use equipment at work.
What manual handling training must employers provide?
Training should be relevant to the manual handling work being carried out. The Health and Safety Executive advises that it should cover:
- Manual handling risk factors and how injuries can happen.
- How to use mechanical aids.
- How to carry out safe manual handling, including good handling techniques.
- Systems of work relevant to the employee’s tasks and environment.
- Practical work so the trainer can identify anything the trainee is not doing safely and correct it.
Our online manual handling course is a cost-effective way to provide training which employees can complete at their own pace as part of a blended learning approach. The course has been created by experienced, competent health and safety experts and is approved by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
Manual handling training should be refreshed annually to ensure safe techniques are remembered and used effectively by employees.