Lifting and Handling

More than a third of all over-three-day injuries reported each year to HSE and local authorities are caused by manual handling - the transporting or supporting of loads by hand or by bodily force

Manual handling injuries can occur wherever people are at work - on farms and building sites, in factories, offices, warehouses, hospitals, banks, laboratories, and while making deliveries. Heavy manual labour, awkward postures, manual materials handling, and previous or existing injury are all risk factors implicated in the development of MSD's (musculoskeletal disorders).

Risk Assessment

There are four universal principles which when applied to every manual handling situation can reduce the risk of injury. 









We'll look at these headings one at a time







Physical state Psychological state Social state




Always consider all aspects of the LITE procedure before attempting any sort of lift. Whether it's a small box off the floor or a 15 stone patient. Remember it's your back, if that becomes damaged it's also the end of your career.

Good Manual Handling Technique

In the following section a basic lifting operation is taken as an example.

● Think before lifting/handling. Plan the lift. Can handling aids be used? Where is the load going to be placed? Will help be needed with the load? Remove obstructions such as discarded wrapping materials. For a long lift, consider resting the load midway on a table or bench to change grip.

● Keep the load close to the waist. Keep the load close to the body for as long as possible while lifting. Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the body. If a close approach to the load is not possible, try to slide it towards the body before attempting to lift it.

● Adopt a stable position. The feet should be apart with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance (alongside the load, if it is on the ground). The worker should be prepared to move their feet during  the lift to maintain their stability. Avoid tight clothing or unsuitable footwear, which may make this difficult.Stable Position

● Get a good hold. Where possible the load should be hugged as close as possible to the body. This may be better than gripping it tightly with hands only.

● Start in a good posture. At the start of the lift, slight bending of the back, hips and knees is preferable to fully flexing the back (stooping) or fully flexing the hips and knees (squatting).Good Posture

Getting to grips with manual handling

● Don’t flex the back any further while lifting. This can happen if the legs begin to straighten before starting to raise the load.

● Avoid twisting the back or leaning sideways, especially while the back is bent. Shoulders should be kept level and facing in the same direction as the hips. Turning by moving the feet is better than twisting and lifting at the same time.

● Keep the head up when handling. Look ahead, not down at the load, once it has been held securely.Keep head up when carrying load

● Move smoothly. The load should not be jerked or snatched as this can make it harder to keep control and can increase the risk of injury.

● Don’t lift or handle more than can be easily managed. There is a difference between what people can lift and what they can safely lift. If in doubt, seek advice or get help.

● Put down, then adjust. If precise positioning of the load is necessary, put it down first, then slide it into the desired position.

This information was taken from 'Getting to grips with manual handling'. Published by HSE


Carrying Chair - This piece of equipment is probably one of, if not, the most used piece of equipment on an ambulance.

Description - Portable folding chair with wheels

Function - For carrying and wheeling patients in varying circumstances. e.g. Up or down stairs, in a lift, along narrow pathways. Usually only used to convey conscious patients but can be used for unconscious if the airway can be maintained. The use of a cervical collar will accomplish this. 

Orthopaedic Stretcher (Scoop) - A metallic stretcher that can be split into two halves for easy loading of casualty onto the stretcher.

Function - For lifting a casualty with fractures or spinal injuries

Service Checks: As with all equipment it should be regularly checked to make sure it is operational and does not have any faults. Check that all aspects, especially the adjusters, coupling latch and locking devices. Inspect straps for wear, loose stitching and that locking catches are working correctly. If any part of the equipment is faulty you should remove from the vehicle and report to your equipment department and fill in relevant paperwork as per your service requirements.

Loading the patient: 

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  • This section of the course is generally a practical day and not something that will come up in the Section D exam.


  • LITE refers to what in a risk assessment?