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What are the Most Common Types of Manual Handling Incidents?

Manual handling at work is any sort of physical or manual labor conducted to move something. It could be an object, a piece of furniture, or boxes in a warehouse. Manual handling tasks are picking up objects, putting them down, carrying, pulling, and pushing.

All these tasks require some kind of physical effort, as well as a strain on the worker’s body. While manual handling is an everyday task we all do, manual handling work usually refers to carrying heavy loads as part of one’s job responsibilities.

In this content piece, we will look at common manual handling incidents, injuries, and what they can do to both the employees and the organization.

Common Manual Handling Incidents

Here are some of the most frequent incidents that occur during manual handling work:

  • Slips, trips, and fall injuries
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Sprain injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Hand injuries
  • Foot injuries
  • Hernias

Slips, Trips, and Fall Injuries

Falls account for a majority of injuries across the US, with 33% of the emergency responder’s non-fatal incidents occurring due to falls. These can occur outside of manual handling practices but are still common when conducting them as well.

Slips, trips, and falls are usually caused by an external factor other than the manual handling practice itself, from a spillage or something lying on the floor to an uneven floor or loss of balance. Manual handling practices increase the risk of these types of accidents, but performing proper risk checks can significantly decrease the risk of these preventable incidents.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Musculoskeletal Disorders, or MSDs, are usually chronic pain conditions that limit or restrict a person’s ability to conduct any physical activity normally. MSDs cover a wide array of conditions occurring all over the body, and the prevalence and severity of these conditions increase with age as well.

A large number of these injuries are categorized as foot, hand, or back injuries in this content piece, but MSDs have several other conditions, such as arthritis and joint pain.

A large factor of musculoskeletal disorders is repetitive lifting and strains as well, which damage the muscles, bones, and joints, leading to a variety of chronic conditions. As MSDs take time to occur, avoiding practices that cause these disorders are crucial to maintaining the long-term health and safety of employees.

Sprain Injuries

When you pick something up, it is important to gauge beforehand if that object can be lifted without needing any assistance. Taking risks leads to injuries, and sprains and strains on your muscles, joints, and on the body are a primary cause of manual handling injuries, accidents, and other incidents.

Avoid over-stretching your joints when conducting manual handling work.

Back injuries

The back is one of the weakest parts of your body in manual handling work. Proper lifting technique needs to be used for lifting objects, carrying them, as well as putting them down. Maintain posture and lifting technique to prevent back injuries, and always bend at the legs or waist, not the back.

Hand injuries

Hands injuries are quite common in manual handling work, and protecting your hands should be the priority. Manual handling should not be conducted without proper hand safety.

Always use proper gloves when using your hands, designed for the work you are doing. Warehouse manual handling, for example, requires thick gloves that need to be maintained and replaced if worn out. If you are lifting cold, hot, or sharp objects, gloves can protect against those hazards if they cannot be otherwise contained.

Foot injuries

Foot injuries can be common when lifting anything, and that remains so across manual handling practices. A person can drop a heavy load when they are performing any manual handling task, though oftentimes this is preventable by wearing protective footwear.

Injuries and fractures can occur due to other reasons when conducting manual handling practices as well, even if the load does not fall on the foot itself. However, those can be counted among sprains and strains, which are counted in different categories.

Whenever lifting heavy loads, any practice that can cause these foot injuries should be prevented. One can, for example, drop a heavy load rather than lower it carefully, which can lead to bruises and bone-crushing injuries.


Repeated strain on the abdomen can potentially cause a hernia, and improperly lifting loads can increase the risk of developing a hernia. Developing hernias means surgery is necessary and does not get better on its own.

When conducting any manual handling work, do not operate any loads too heavy to lift on your own. Consider using equipment or additional help, or avoid the activity entirely if possible.

More Steps to Follow

To ensure that all tasks are handled safely, conducting manual handling training regularly can help with keeping safety considerations in mind. According to the Health and Safety Executive, manual handling work should be avoided as much as possible, and to use assistive devices and tools when doing so to minimize risk and injuries.

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