Today we’re going to be talking about the manual handling of people.

People handling is just another type of manual handling. The same risks and the same sort of hazards are present, but there are some key differences when it comes to the handling of people that are important that we’ll cover those off today.

Identifying Hazards

When we’re identifying our hazards, we need to talk to our workers and see where they think some of the hazardous situations are. They may know particular clients or patients that are particularly problematic and we need to put controls in for that. They also may be able to nominate tasks that they seem to do all the time, which gives them a little bit of trouble.

We also need to make sure that we have a good look for our hazardous manual tasks based on our risk factors, those are:-

  • Sustained force
  • High or sudden force
  • Repetition
  • Vibration
  • Awkward postures

Some examples of those would be; if you’re talking about regular or sustained force, that’s going to happen with lots of our people handling manoeuvres such as, standing someone up. It’s not super heavy, but it’s done regularly and the effort adds up.

High or sudden force is quite rare in people handling. The main time when that would happen is when a client falls. For example, you’re walking someone along and they fall and the instant reaction is to reach out and grab them.

Repetition, there’s lots of tasks that are repetitive, particularly if you work in health care or aged care environments, many of the tasks are done time and time again, so there’s lots of repetitive tasks. There’s lots of opportunities for awkward postures, this will tend to happen more in situations like tight confined or restricted spaces, like bathrooms.

Risk Assessment Tools

The risk assessment for people handling could be the same as any other manual tasks, you can use similar tools, but one of the things that we find is important, is that you combine your risk assessment with your clients or your patients risk assessment.

Obviously, there’s two elements to the manual handling here

  1. the safety for the worker,
  2. the safety for the client that’s been handled as well.

We do risk assessments for our clients. I think it’s important that we combine or incorporate risk assessment for our staff into that same assessment.

And the good news is that most of the techniques that will come out of our risk assessments will be beneficial for both the client and the staff member as well.

Healthcare Workers and Manual Handling

I think it’s important here that the worker is not forgotten.

In my experience, oftentimes we, as healthcare workers take a lot of time in making sure our client is safe, and it’s all about the client, and that can sometimes be to the detriment of the staff member themselves. So, while we don’t want to ever forget about the safety of our client, it’s also important that we give reasonable attention to the safety of our staff members, and I think they should get equal attention.

Risk Control for Manual Handling

When it comes to risk control, we will always try and eliminate the manual task. Most of the time this won’t be possible, because the client does need to be moved.

There will be a few times when it is completely inappropriate for us to use manual techniques to move a client. For example, if they are unwell, and unable to move themselves, it’s going to be unsafe for a person to lift them, so there might be a day or two where for example, a person is not gotten out of bed because of the health and for the safety of the staff members as well.

But that aside, most of the time we are going to want to move our clients, that’s part of our job, so we need to make sure that we’re doing it safely.

Where we can, use engineering controls. The engineering controls are going to be the things that help us lift and move our clients, so it’s going to be things like

  • hoists,
  • standing frames and hoists,
  • mobility aids,

There’s a whole raft of manual handling equipment for patients and clients that really does assist with the process.

The administrative controls are generally going to be training and this is one area where your manual task training does have a benefit because there’s some really specific techniques that need to be covered that staff members really need to know about. Some good, clear, task based manual handling training is a good thing here, as PPE is not really relevant in this situation.


  1. The assessment process should incorporate the client’s assessment alongside the staff assessment.
  2. When it comes to controls, you need to consider as many different types of mobility or transfer or lifting aids as possible
  3. Plan for appropriate engineering controls, and once we have those in place, we provide good manual handling training