How To Choose Manual Handling Training That Works For You

Manual handling is one of the leading causes of workplace injury.

Approximately 8.9 million days were lost in 2016/17 through musculoskeletal disorders alone.

What can you do to make sure your staff aren’t at risk?

One option is manual handling training. Nevertheless, you may not know what training is best for your business. Or, even what training is out there.

Good news. In this post, we will be breaking down manual handling training, with a discussion of:

  • Manual handling and the law
  • Topics covered by good manual handling training
  • The 4 methods of training
  • Advantages and disadvantages of each method

Therefore, you can turn to this post every time you are looking to get staff trained in safe manual handling.

Without further delay, let’s get stuck in.


Million Working Days Lost from 2016/17

Manual Handling Definition

Generally speaking, most people consider manual handling to be lifting a heavy item from one place to another.

But, here’s the thing.

The law still applies to activities involving pushing and pulling. The use of sack trucks, for example.

Moreover, it isn’t just lifting “heavy” items. The definition applies to ANY load – heavy or light.

Here is what the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 defines a manual handling activity as:

“…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or more moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force”

With this in mind, it’s time to look further into the law…

Manual Handling Legislation

The 2 pieces of legislation that affect manual handling activities are:

The Health and Safety at Work Act outlines the general duties placed on employers and employees in the workplace.

Whereas, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations detail the duties placed on employers and employees with respect to manual handling activities.

What are these duties? Let’s take a look…

Employers duties

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act states,

“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

  • The Manual Handling Operations state that employers must follow the risk control hierarchy.

Let’s delve deeper…

The Risk Control Hierarchy


Therefore, if you can think of a way around the moving and handling of objects, you should take that option.

For instance, investing in a forklift to move pallets rather than having someone move individual boxes.

However, in reality, it would be very difficult to completely avoid manual handling.

Which brings us to the second point of the hierarchy,

  • Employers must make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of any manual handling activities

Whilst, risk assessments may be a pain, there is a good reason they exist. When completed and implemented correctly, they protect the health of you and your workforce.

After you have completed your assessments, you should move onto part 3.

  • Employers must try to reduce the risk of injury and illness where reasonably practicable.

Every measure should be taken, where reasonable to do so, to prevent injury from manual handling.

As a result, you may want to invest in training…

Manual handling legislation

Manual Handling Training

The big question is…

Is manual handling training a legal requirement?

Whilst not being required by law, employees still need to find a suitable way of reducing the risk posed by manual handling activities.

And there are no two ways about it, training remains one of the best ways to reduce risk.

For this reason, we strongly recommend that every one of your employees involved in day-to-day manual handling should be trained to a basic level.

It is important to remember, no amount of training can overcome the lack of mechanical aids; unsuitable loads and/or bad working conditions.

Let’s look at what training should cover…

What does good manual handling training involve?

The crucial topics are:

  • Legal duties of employers and employees in the workplace
  • The risk control hierarchy
  • Potential high-risk activities
  • Manual handling assessments
  • Reducing the risk of injury
  • Practical manual handling techniques (including singular person and team lifting)

Key Tip: The best training makes the content relevant to the load, individual, task and environment involved.

Now that you know what topics should be taught, we will discuss the options you can pick from…

Methods of training


Choosing a suitable course may not be that easy, especially if you don’t know what is out there. Thus I will run through the options.

There are four main types of training:

  1. Online training (accredited)
  2. Open Courses (accredited)
  3. Onsite Courses (accredited)
  4. In-house training (non-accredited)

Online training

e-Learning offers one of the cost-effective forms of training. In addition, it offers complete flexibility around you. You can often access it 24/7 from anywhere there is an internet connection.

However, courses tend to be less effective at teaching the practical side of the course.

Without the ability to practice the techniques in front of an expert tutor makes it hard to rectify mistakes in your technique.

Furthermore, online training is often generic and is unlikely to include examples relevant to your workplace.

Conclusion: e-Learning is useful for learning how to complete risk assessments and reduce the risk of manual handling operations.

Open courses

Open courses are similar to online training.

The big difference is…

They offer face-to-face contact where the tutor can correct your technique.

Moreover, they are perfect for sending only one or two people on a course.

Despite this, courses are often generic with a lack of relevancy to your own environment, task and load.

Conclusion: Courses are suitable for those carrying out manual handling in a generic working environment

Onsite courses

Onsite courses are where an external training provider delivers training on your premises.

For this reason, these courses are perfectly tailored to the individuals, tasks, loads and environments of your company.

Additionally, trainers are on hand to offer advice on your specific manual handling risks as well as answer any queries.

But, they are often costly for one or two of employees as they are designed for groups.

Conclusion: Courses are excellent for groups of employees and those with unique and specific manual handling needs.

In fact, the HSE have recently urged businesses not to invest in generic, off-the-shelf style manual handling courses. Furthering the need for onsite courses in the future. Check out this press release from them!

In-House training

This is a non-accredited form of training held within an organisation.

Often, this will be the most cost-effective form of training because you don’t have to hire an external trainer.

And, much like onsite training, employees will be training in the exact situations they’ll find themselves in.

But, bear in mind, a competent person will have to lead the session.

A competent person is not just someone who has been involved in manual handling activities for years and not had an accident. They must have received formal training and possess sufficient knowledge of safe manual handling practices.

Another thing to consider are measures to ensure staff have understood the course content. The most obvious way to do this is through a test.

Also, each employee will need to sign something saying they have received training. Otherwise, there is no proof such training occurred.

Conclusion: In-House courses can be very effective forms of training but initially involve more hassle than using external trainers.

Finally, let’s look at how you can choose the right method for you…

Finding the right method

  • Engage employees

Employees directly involved in manual handling on a day-to-day basis will have a good idea of what would be most beneficial.

Discuss with them the options. Get their thoughts and opinions and keep them up to date with your decisions.

  • Injury Report Data

If your company is suffering from a large number of musculoskeletal disorders, manual handling may be the cause. Check your injury report data and consider training as an option.

  • Measure the stats

Visit dorsavi and look at their health and safety devices which can monitor your employee’s movements.

This will help you to gain a deeper insight into employee injuries and allow you to take suitable precautions.

  • Manual handling risk assessments

They can give an indication as to what training will be best.

Are the tasks being performed very generic or more specialised?

Are there only a few people at risk of manual handling injuries or ten’s of people?

Get them written!


Now it’s time for you to assess your manual handling needs.

Take a deep look into your manual handling activities, follow the risk hierarchy, then ask yourself whether training can help.

Refer to the topics covered in this post to help you choose the best method of training for you and your organisation.

Remember: training should never be a one-off. It should be done on a consistent basis. Include it in your training programme and make it regular.

No matter how you decide to train your employees, just make sure that you do!

Every employee deserves the right to go home happy and healthy.

What method will you use to train? Tell us in the comments!

Excellent resources

  • The Manual Handling Operations Regulations provides an excellent list of questions that employers must consider when filling out a manual handling risk assessment.
  • The manual handling section of the HSE website
  • For a deeper look, visit the HSE’s research into manual handling training, pg133-136

If you need help setting up a training programme then visit our blog on it here, call us on 01423 396780 or email