Manual Handling

We can assist you in assessing your manual handling tasks and identify major risk areas that could lead to injury. The manual handling assessment process will help to reduce risks by finding better and often more efficient ways of doing the work.

Is there a maximum weight a person can lift during their work?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) set no specific requirements such as weight limits.

The ergonomic approach shows clearly that such requirements are based on too simple a view of the problem and may lead to incorrect conclusions. Instead, an ergonomic assessment based on a range of relevant factors is used to determine the risk of injury and point the way to remedial action.

The Regulations establish the following clear hierarchy of control measures:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable, for example by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.
  • Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Where possible, you should provide mechanical assistance, for example a sack trolley or hoist. Where this is not reasonably practicable, look at ways of changing the task, the load and working environment.

Modern medical and scientific opinion accepts the scale of the problem and stresses the importance of an ergonomic approach to remove or reduce the risk of manual handling injury. Ergonomics is sometimes described as ‘fitting the job to the person, rather than the person to the job’. The ergonomic approach looks at manual handling as a whole. It takes into account a range of relevant factors, including the nature of the task, the load, the working environment and individual capability and requires worker participation.

When a more detailed assessment is necessary it should follow the broad structure set out in the Regulations. The Schedule lists a number of questions in five categories:

  • the task
  • the load
  • the working environment
  • individual capability (this category is discussed in more detail under regulation 4(3) and its guidance); and
    other factors, for example use of protective clothing.

Each of these categories may influence the others and none of them can be considered on their own. However, to carry out an assessment in a structured way it is often helpful to begin by breaking the operations down into separate, more manageable items


The Manual Handling Assessment Charts (MAC) is a new tool designed to help health and safety inspectors assess the most common risk factors in lifting (and lowering), carrying and team handling operations. Employers, safety officers, safety representatives and others may also find the MAC useful to identify high-risk manual handling operations and help them complete their risk assessments.

Structure of the MAC

There are three types of assessment that can be carried out with the MAC:

  • lifting operations
  • carrying operations
  • team handling operations.

For each type of assessment there is an assessment guide and a flowchart.

You can get more information and free leaflets from the HSE.

The MAC tool can be found on the HSE website.

Note: The MAC is not appropriate for some manual handling operations, for example those that involve pushing and pulling. Its use does not comprise a full risk assessment (for advice on how to do a full assessment, see L23 Manual handling). You must consider individual and psychosocial issues when completing the score sheet. Also, the MAC is not designed to assess risks from workplace upper limb disorders.

Copies of INDG383 are available from HSE Books.