Common Principles of Manual Handling

With any job task, there are adherent risks. This is especially true in manual handling. Manual handling is the moving of an object by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling. Manual handling risks include a wide array of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which is any injury, damage to or "disorders of muscles, bones, connective tissues, and nerves" (Bunch, 2016). Risk factors include force, repetition, environmental stress, and posture.

Since optimal conditions rarely exist on a job site, employers should manage risk factors through an ergonomic approach that encompasses engineering controls, company policies, environmental safeguards, and behavior-based education and training. Inevitably, a job may require an object to be manually lifted. In this case, employers and employees should take into account the nature of the job task, the load's characteristics, the working environment, and the employees participating in the task. A plan should be devised to minimize any associated risks.

In regards to lifting technique, various organizations and publications have debated over the characteristics of proper lifting with slight differences. According to the Industrial Safety and Rehabilitation Institute, six common principles exist related to the safe lifting of an object.

Keep the load close.
During the lift, maintain the lower back in the neutral inward curve.
Use the legs to lift, not the back.
Tighten the abdominal muscles during the lift.
Lift slowly and smoothly.
Avoid twisting while lifting.

It is important to note that an individual's physical capabilities and mental state are additional risk factors. These additional risk factors should be assessed through a proper pre-employment functional evaluation, maintained through a client-specific workplace wellness and safety program, and monitored through annual medical screenings.

Employers should educate all potential lifters about MSD's, risks factors, available engineering and environmental controls, company policies, and promote behavioral-based solutions. Education is paramount in positive behavior change.


Bunch, R. (2016). Industrial Safety and Rehabilitation Institute, CBES Certification Training Manual, 4, 5.