Manual handling

Over a third of all accidents in the workplace can be attributed to manual handling or lifting and lowering of loads. This involves the transporting or supporting of loads by hand or by bodily force.

Most of the reported accidents cause back injury, though hands, arm and feet are also vulnerable.


Many manual handling injuries build up over a period rather than being caused by a single handling incident.  These injuries occur where people are at work – on farms and building sites, in factories, offices, warehouses, hospitals, banks, laboratories, and while making deliveries.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (NI) 1992 is concerned with all manual handling activities regardless of weight.  Avoidance of manual handling by mechanical means is the primary objective but where this is not possible employers should adopt appropriate organisational measures.

There is no such thing as a safe weight that can be manually lifted.   Any lifting operation has the potential to cause injury.


So far as reasonable practicable, employers should avoid the need for employees to carry out manual handling tasks.

Where avoidance of manual handling is not reasonably practicable, employers should:

  • Make (and if necessary review) a formal risk assessment of manual handling
  • Reduce the risk of injury to the lowest reasonably practicable level
  • Provide employees with general indications, and if possible provide information on the weight of a load, centre of gravity, handholds, heaviest side


The regulations require employees to comply with any safe system of work provided.

Any risk assessment on manual handling should address itself to the task, the load, the working environment and the individual capabilities of the person doing the lifting.


Key legislation

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.