Close Icon
Home / Blog / Health and Safety / Manual Handling Principles and Techniques

What are the 5 principles of manual handling?

Manual handling may seem like it is a complicated way to lift and move things, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For the most part, you can break down the main aspects of manual handling into 5 principles, which makes them much easier to remember; and in turn, keeps you safer when it comes to lifting and moving loads.

Step 1: Plan

The first thing that you should do is ensure that you plan your lift properly. Think about where you are starting and where you are ending up. Not only should you try and take the shortest route, but also the safest route too.

Consider any possible risks that may come up on the way, such as uneven ground or any other form of trip hazards that you are going to need to be mindful of. If you can move anything out of the way before you start, then this can help you reduce your chances of having an accident and giving yourself an injury.

If you cannot move them, then at least being aware of them will help you to try and avoid the potential issue.

You also need to be aware of the load that you need to lift and move, you may not always know how much it is going to weigh. The simplest way to try and identify this is to give it a push and this will help you to see how heavy it is going to be.

Image of carer with elderly person for Learn Q Manual Handling Principles and Techniques blog

Step 2: Position

Once you have planned what you are lifting and where you are taking it, you need to think about your body position. You should always approach anything that you need to lift with your feet about shoulder-width apart.

The centre of your body should line up with the item and you should move it as close as you possibly can to the item. This means that you can easily lower yourself to the object and make it easier to then lift it.

You should try to use any handles that the item may have to lift, however, this may not always be the case. Instead, the aim should always be to grab it with two hands as this will make you more stable and even.

Step 3: Pick

Now is the time to get to the lifting part of the process. You need to try and lift the item as naturally as possible, using a natural upward motion. As you do this you need to make sure that you keep it as close to you as you can, as this will help the lift to be gentler on your spine.

As you lift, you also need to ensure that you engage the muscles within your torso as much as you can as this will not only help to keep you steady but will also provide more support to your spine too.

Your legs and your buttocks should always be the main lifting mechanism and your feet should only move to keep the load and your torso aligned and neutral at this stage.

If the load is particularly heavy, then you can keep it in what is known as the power soze. This is the area of your body that is between your shoulders horizontally and vertically between the middle of your thighs and the centre of your chest.

Keeping the load in this area will make sure that you reduce the risk that your limbs and your trunk are going to be put into an awkward position and in turn reduce the chance of you being injured.

Step 4: Proceed

Now you are ready to move the load. You should always make sure that during this stage your spine remains as upright as possible and you avoid too much twisting, bending and reaching. Should you need to move around, you should step with one foot in the direction that you want to go in, then make sure that the rest of your body follows you.

You will need to be careful as you are moving the load, particularly as the loads can sometimes block your line of vision.

Step 5: Place

Finally, you have reached where you wanted to be. You need to lower the load as carefully as you lift it, just in reverse.

You should never drop a heavy load into its place, or try to shove and jerk it around. This can be just as likely to cause you an injury as the lifting and carrying of it is.

You aim to be smooth and steady, you should always think about being careful with the load and with your own body too. That way you can reduce your chances of being left injured from something that is just part of your everyday work.

Understand Manual Handling Regulations in the UK

To keep everyone safe the HSE have created their manual handling regulations. These are designed to provide guidance and support so that everyone who could be at risk of a manual handling-related injury, can be as protected as possible.

The main Manual Handling Regulations that you may need to be aware of include:

Being aware of these can often give you the information that you need to understand about manual handling and what it can mean for you.


Identify Potential Hazards

One of the main ways that you can keep yourself safe when you are moving and lifting things in your everyday work is to try and identify potential hazards.

Sometimes, simply by being aware of the hazards that you may face, you are giving yourself the best chance of staying safe.

You may not always be able to move or remove the hazards, but when you know that they are there, you can do whatever you can to avoid them.

Plan and Organise the Task

Another key factor to consider when it comes to manual handling is just how important planning is. Planning is so often overlooked and not seen to be worth doing, but it can make the difference between making an error that injures you and being safe and careful during the lifting process.

Use Proper Lifting Techniques

It is vital during lifts that you always use proper lifting techniques. These are there for a reason and are designed to keep someone safe when they are lifting any kind of load. Of course, you should always pay attention to this when you know that the lift is likely to be heavy.

Image of men lifting a pipe for Learn Q Manual Handling Principles and Techniques blog

However, you should always remember that just because something is lighter, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be at risk of injuring yourself.

Team Lifts and Communication

There are times when you simply cannot lift something on your own. This means that you are going to need to lift as a team. A key part of a team lift is that you work together, as one, which means that you need to be focused on your communication skills.

Utilise Mechanical Aids

If you do have mechanical aids then this may be useful too in making sure that you can easily lift anything that needs to be

lifted. Many people think that mechanical aids mean that you don’t have to worry about manual handling, but this isn’t the case. It means that you need to think about how you can use these aids to help keep you safe as well as make the lift easier, all whilst concentrating on the key principles of manual handling.

Take Breaks and Rotate Tasks

If someone is continuously lifting or performing repetitive actions, then there is a good chance that this will put them at a greater risk of injury. Therefore you must plan to take regular breaks.

This helps to reduce the strain on your body and gives you a chance to rest and recover too.

You also need to try and rotate tasks as much as you can. Having this form of rotation means that you are sharing the load with others.

Training and Education

To give everyone the tools that they need to perform safe manual handling, they need to have the right level of training and education.

Training for manual handling is not something that should only ever be completed once and never again. To keep it fresh in your mind, as well as ensure that you have the most modern techniques and processes, you are going to need to have regular refresher training.

Reporting and Incident Investigation

There is always a chance that even with the right measures in place, an incident can occur that will require investigation. If this does happen the last thing that you should do is try to push it under the carpet and ignore it.

Any incidents must be reported and investigated, seen as a chance to learn and to put new measures in place that will help stop a repeat from happening in the future.

Seek Professional Advice

If you are unsure of what is best to do when it comes to manual handling, or you have had an incident that you need to find a new way to fix, then you may want to seek professional advice and find out what can be changed to ensure that you always meet best practice.

Manual Handling Training

You can take the Learn Q Manual Handling Course for just £17.50 per person here:

Or you can save even more with our Money Saving Bundles inlcuding:

For other related courses, please see our business compliance course catalogue


Contact Form Learn Q page image

Got a question?

Get in contact and we will
get back to you

Contact Us

Related Courses

Browse Learn Q Courses

Related Articles

Browse Learn Q Blog


The best way to control handling yourself is to reduce the need to lift loads as much as you can. If you do need to lift anything, then follow the guidance set out in manual handling techniques and use any appropriate equipment or tools that you have been provided with by your employer.

The best way to reduce the risk of injury to employees within a workplace is to minimise the amount of manual handling that they do. However, if manual handling is still required then changes to deadlines and work routines should be implemented. This means that there is less chance that the person lifting will rush the process and there should not be a need for an excessive work rate.

Another way to reduce risk is to improve the working environment. There should be a focus on maximum space, with better flooring and extra lighting too.

Of course, the best way to reduce the risk of manual handling is to provide correct training for anyone who is likely to need to lift anything. Therefore they are given the tools and knowledge to do it safely themselves.

If you have been sent on a manual handling course, or you are organising one for your staff then you will want to know how long it will last. Depending on the delivery of the course you can expect it to last anywhere between two and four hours.

LearnHub is currently undergoing essential maintenance. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Please bear with us as we work to enhance your learning experience.

Thank you Learn Q