8 Principles of Manual Handling

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1. Assess the task

The safest best technique for performing the task is determined by considering:

  • the environment
  • the ability of the handler to perform the task e.g. size, age, state of health
  • the nature of the load - i.e. animate or inanimate.

2. Plan

Ensure that the area is free from obstacles like debris on the floor which may interfere with the smooth implementation of the procedure. Wear comfortable clothing, which allows free movement. Shoes should have flat heels, covered toes and provide good support to the feet. Articles of jewellery, which could become entangled, should be removed. Brakes must be applied to moveable equipment. Ensure adequate help is available. 

manual handling

3. Position the feet

Feet should be comfortably apart to provide a wide base of support and to allow the handler to get as close to the load as possible.

Feet should be positioned in the direction of movement of the procedure so that weight can be transferred smoothly from one leg to the other. The centre of gravity should fall within the base of support to give a more stable posture.

4. Get a secure grip

Make sure that the grip is comfortable for both the child and the handler and that this is decided before commencing a procedure.

5. Keep the load close to the body

Make sure the load is brought as close as possible to the handler to minimise stress on the lumbar spine.

6. Maintain good posture throughout the procedure

The vertebral column should be in correct alignment in the normal spinal curvature. The handler should keep his/her head up and neck straight, brace abdominal muscles to support his/her spine and avoid twisting.

7. Use the leg muscles

Hips and knees must be bent to lower the centre of gravity and align the body correctly. The strong leg muscles are used to reduce the stress on the spine.

8. Use body momentum

Timing is essential so that the transfers can be performed smoothly and steadily. Both client and handler should be fully prepared and the timing agreed e.g. one, two, three - lift.

In team lifting, one person becomes the leader and directs the procedure.

Good posture

A good posture is one that puts the least possible amount of strain on your joints and muscles and takes a minimal amount of energy to maintain. A good posture also limits the wear and tear on joints and helps prevent injury, joint and muscle fatigue.

To achieve good posture, follow these guidelines.

  • When standing, put equal weight on each leg and keep your back straight.
  • When sitting, your hips and knees should be at right angles (90°), the natural curve of your back is maintained and you should put equal weight on each buttock.
  • At work, remember to maintain a good posture when involved in meal assistance, client care and programs, pushing wheelchairs and doing up seat belts, etc. Remember that the constant bending involved in carrying out daily routines can be very stressful on your back.
  • Even when sleeping, make sure you maintain a good posture as you can strain back and neck muscles while lying in bed. A supportive mattress is essential.

For other Manual Handling Articles please go to:

Why Manual Handling is important in the workplace

Manual Handling Course

Manual Handling Certification Details