Manual Handling Risk Assessment – Explained With Examples

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Manual handling tasks are a leading cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and this condition accounted for 27% of all cases of work-related ill health.

Businesses should have a manual handling risk assessment in place to help drive down that number.

In this blog, we’ll overview these tailored assessments to define what they are and further understand how they help make your workplace safer.

Moreover, we’ll also uncover how completing manual handling training with TSW can empower your team with the information they need to stay safe in the future.

A person in a hard hat holding a box in a warehouse.

What is Manual Handling Risk Assessment?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 mandates that employers have a responsibility to carry out risk assessments before commencing with activities that involve manual handling.

Similar to how a fire risk assessment identifies specific fire-related risks in your workplace, a risk assessment for manual handling highlights hazardous manual handling tasks. 

Furthermore, these tailored checks also define measures to avoid manual handling tasks altogether or implement a host of controls to ensure the task is fulfilled safely.

Because manual handling is such a broad topic, these checks are applicable in many industries. From construction and manufacturing sites to delivery drivers, they all feature hazardous tasks.

What is a Dynamic Risk Assessment in Manual Handling?

As opposed to standard risk assessments, which are more proactive in nature, dynamic risk assessments are designed to identify hazards as they appear.

It helps to think of workplace risk assessments as overall checks before a new premises opens or after taking in a large number of new staff. Meanwhile, dynamic risk assessments occur more often due to the tasks being carried out on the premises.

Manual Handling Dynamic Risk Assessment Example

A good example of when a manual handling dynamic risk assessment would be used would be when workers in a recycling or waste management plant encounter an unknown object that needs to be moved. Or a construction worker needing to move a large item into a skip.

When employees discover tasks like the ones highlighted above, they need to know how to carry out a dynamic risk assessment for moving and handling to quickly define the hazards and risks involved.

Construction workers in high-visibility jackets inspecting metal framework.

Elements of Manual Handling Risk Assessment

A sufficient and safe manual handling risk assessment should cover four core elements – load, task, individual, and environment. We’ll cover these in more detail shortly.

But you can also cover the requisite bases by following the AARR mnemonic: 

1. Avoid

Counterintuitively, the place to begin completing manual handling work safely is to define whether you need to carry out the work. For example, do you need to carry out this task? Or can it be completed with specialist machinery? Additionally, could you get help carrying the load?

2. Assess

You must begin the comprehensive assessment stage if you have evaluated that you cannot avoid the manual handling task. At this stage, it’s essential to bring together your task workforce and involve them all in the assessment for complete coherence throughout. Then, ascertain how manageable this task could be. Some key elements to think about are:

  • Will the shape or composition of the object make it difficult to lift?
  • Does your clothing or equipment make it more challenging to complete the task?
  • Similarly, does the object composition require you to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the lift?
  • How experienced are you and your team in manual handling tasks?
  • Is anyone in the manual handling team pregnant? Or recently given birth?

3. Reduce

Following these steps will help reduce the number of manual handling incidents in your business.

4. Review

Following any assessment, it’s essential to review how smoothly the process went and to iron out any complications for next time. A Team Leader or Line Manager best conducts the review stage of the process to ensure correct implementation going forward.

The AARR acronym is particularly pertinent as it allows avoiding hazardous manual handling.

According to the legislation, employers should:

“So far as is reasonably practicable, avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured.”

When you consider that compensation claims for severe work-related back injuries can be as much as £160k, avoidance of risk is imperative.

A construction worker carrying a steel beam at a construction site.

How to Create a Manual Handling Risk Assessment Document

When creating a specific risk assessment of manual handling tasks, you must first ensure that the person completing the checks is a ‘competent person.’

When defining competent personnel for completing risk assessments, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) highlights that they should be sufficiently trained. You can satisfy this requirement by passing manual handling training with TSW.

Once you have a competent person in place, you can begin to build out your risk assessment process by following the simple four-step process we alluded to earlier. But what is it?

4 Steps Of Manual Handling Risk Assessment

A manual lifting risk assessment generally follows a hierarchy of control methodology for mitigating risk.

However, it’s easier to understand and implement a safe approach by distilling your review into a simple four-step process. The four-step method can be remembered under the LITE or TILE acronym.

In each case, the letters stand for the same words, but the mnemonics are moved around.

For example, the LITE four-step approach stands for:

1. Load

You can start the assessment by checking the load over and answering these questions:

  • How heavy is the object that needs moving?
  • What are the dimensions?
  • Is the object too big for one person to hold?
  • Can you see over the load?
  • What is the object’s composition? For example, is it a solid or loose mass?
  • Does it have sharp edges, or is it otherwise harmful? E.g., a hazardous substance.
  • Is the weight of the object even distributed?

To further mitigate the risks associated with the load, could you use specialist machinery (remember the “Avoid” section from AARR above)? Or could you break it down into more manageable chunks?

Courier in cap and workwear arranging parcels in a delivery vehicle.

2. Individual

Next, it’s time to assess those carrying out the task. You need to ascertain who could safely carry out the job at this stage.

  • Could the activity pose a risk to people with health problems?
  • Are any staff disabled or carrying an injury which could be worsened by carrying the load?
  • Does the object pose a risk to pregnant workers or those recently returning from having a baby?
  • Is the task safe for new or inexperienced workers?

3. Task

What is the manual handling task? Does it require unnatural movements such as reaching or over-stretching? Additionally, when reviewing the task, you should also check whether it’s repetitive or requires moving or lifting the object over long distances. For reference, generally speaking, long distances in manual handling tasks are considered anything over 10 metres.

4. Environment

The final assessment stage sees you turn your attention to the surrounding environment.

  • Is it well-lit?
  • Is the floor even and all on the same level?
  • Are there any objects or hazards like wet patches on the surface?
  • Are there any moving vehicles?
  • What is the temperature of the surrounding area?

To effectively manage your environment, you remove any immediate hazards and ensure the area is sufficiently lit. If there are changeable circumstances, such as natural elements affecting the work, it may be safer to enlist the assistance of lifting machinery.

It’s also worth mentioning that some environments call for a further step in this process.

When used as the TILE mnemonic, the additional step makes it TILEO. The ‘O’ stands for ‘Other factors.’

Other factors could be the necessity for PPE when carrying a load or defining whether mechanical assistance is required.

A person is preparing to carry a pile of wood in a factory.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions about manual handling risk assessments.

What is the TILE Manual Handling Risk Assessment?

The TILE acronym stands for task, individual, load, and environment. It’s a mnemonic used to simplify and remember the processes necessary to complete a robust manual handling risk assessment.

Who is Responsible for Conducting a Manual Handling Risk Assessment?

Just like standard risk assessments, a competent person should only carry out manual handling reviews. A competent person is defined as someone who has completed manual handling training.

What are the Key Factors to Consider in a Manual Handling Risk Assessment?

Four key factors to consider when completing a sufficient manual handling risk assessment are the task, load, individual, and environment. You could also consider one further step for other factors, such as whether PPE is required. 

Which Legislation States That Manual Handling Risk Assessment Must Be Undertaken?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 make manual handling risk assessments a legal requirement for all employers. 


So many industries and roles call for some form of manual handling.

When you consider the injuries and penalties involved with incorrect processes, there can be no doubt that manual handling risk assessments are crucial. 

Wondering where to start? We’ve got your back! Manual handling training with TSW takes just one day to complete and qualifies you as a ‘competent person’ to carry out these important checks.

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Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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