Manual Handling and Sickness Absence

September 18, 2018
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Figures recently released by the Office for National Statistics show that, musculoskeletal problems (including back pain, neck and upper limb problems etc) were responsible for 28.2 million days lost to sickness in 2017.

The figures were higher for men at 28% of days lost compared to 18.4% for women.

Musculoskeletal problems can often be a result of poor manual handling practices and it is important that employers manage such risks in their workplaces.

Where practical all employers should avoid the need for hazardous manual handling. Where avoidance isn’t practical employers should assess the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling tasks and take action to reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Typical examples of action that can be taken to reduce or remove risk include:

  • Mechanising tasks and providing handling aids such as trolleys, conveyors, pallet trucks etc
  • Reducing the distances loads need to be carried
  • Reducing the weight of loads
  • Avoiding the need to stoop or twist
  • Varying tasks to allow muscles recovery time
  • Making sure the work area is well lit
  • Making sure floors are in good condition and avoiding steps and steep slopes
  • Providing practical training that is relevant to the workplace.

Please speak to your usual PIB Risk Management contact if you would like to discuss any aspect of manual handling safety in your workplace.

More information about training can be found on the PIB Risk Management website at:

The full sickness absence in the labour market statistics can be found on the ONS website at: