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Department of Engineering Health & Safety


The aim of this guidance is to advise on the procedures for undertaking and recording assessments for manual handling operations (MHOs). 

MHOs involve transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force. MHO’s are hazardous and are the cause of the majority of injuries at work. A load is a moveable object, which may include a person, an animal or material supported on an implement, e.g. a load on a shovel. 

A hierarchy of measures must be followed to reduce the risks from manual handling operations (where appropriate): 

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process. 

  • Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk of injury from 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, provide mechanical assistance, for example a sack trolley or hoist. Where this is not reasonably practicable, explore changes to the task, the load and the working environment. 

‘Reasonably practicable’ means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or effort. However, you do not need to act if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.  

Risk Assessment 

A risk assessment would normally be carried out whilst observing on-going manual handling tasks as this allows the task to be assessed exactly as it is performed. However, in some cases it is beneficial to perform a preliminary risk assessment before the task is carried out, for instance in the case of planning a work layout or for an unusual ‘one-off’ procedure that justifies a written risk assessment i.e. moving a large piece(s) of equipment or furniture. 

The responsibility for undertaking a manual handling assessment lies with the Supervisor (for students and research staff) or the Line Manager (for academic-related and assistant staff). 

Where the manual handling and movement of loads cannot be avoided, the assessment may identify the need for control measures to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest level reasonably practicable.  Such measures may include building works, a mechanical or automating aid, etc. 

When looking at an individual operation, consider in turn the task, the load, the working environment and individual capability as well as other factors and the relationship between them. Try to fit the operations to the individual, rather than the other way round. See Annex 1

It would be helpful to use the diagram in Annex 2 as a filtering mechanism to help us decide when a formal manual handling risk assessment is required.   

Individual Capability 

An individual’s physical capability may also change with time or circumstances (e.g. pregnancy). In certain cases it could even require input from the Occupational Health Service i.e. if there are relevant health concerns which might affect that capability and require additional support. 

Employee’s Responsibilities 

Employees have duties placed on them so they must: 

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their activities 

  • co-operate with you to enable you to comply with your health and safety duties 

  • shall make full and proper use of any system of work provided for their use. 

Training, Instruction and Information 

Training can be provided by the CUED Safety Office on request from a line manager or supervisor. Individuals may with the agreement of their line manager or supervisor book a place on the University’s Lifting and Manual Handling training session. 

Learning and practicing good lifting techniques help prevent injury - please see the University's Manual Handling leaflet for more details. 

Training should cover: 

  • How to recognise harmful manual handling 

  • Systems of work appropriate to the kinds of situation in the Department 

  • How to choose and use mechanical aids 

  • Good manual handling techniques. 

Instruction:  All staff and students involved in the MHOs are to be instructed in the safe handling techniques to be used in their workplace. 

Information.  All staff and students who are involved in MHOs are to read the risk assessments.  They are to be made aware of the risks of injury and informed of the measures which are required to eliminate or reduce them. 

Mechanical Handling Aids 

A wide range of mechanical handling aids are generally available.  Line managers and supervisors may seek the advice of the Department Safety Office in the selection of suitable equipment if required. 

Although these aids assist, they do not eliminate the human effort which will still be required to transport, steady or position the load. 

There should be a specific risk assessment for operations requiring the use of a forklift truck. Fork lift trucks and pedestrian stackers may only be operated by persons who have received specialist training and hold the relevant certification. 

For further information see: 

HSD069P Manual Handling Risk Assessment Form and Guidance 

HSD149P Manual Handling – Guidance leaflet 

Safety Office Contact Details



Inglis Building

Trumpington Street

Cambridge CB2 1PZ


Gary Steele

Department Safety Officer (DSO)

Departmental Fire Safety Manager (DFSM)

Tel: 01223 (3)32740


Steve Wickens

Department Safety Coordinator

Tel: 01223 (7)61455