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Knowledge Base » Health and Safety » How to use Moving and Handling Equipment Safely?

How to use Moving and Handling Equipment Safely?

Last updated on 20th December 2023

Almost every one of us will experience moving and handling in the workplace at some time. Whether your role involves a lot of physical activity, or you’re responsible for organising the stationary cupboard once a month – if you lift, move or carry any item in work, then you partake in moving and handling.

But – with over a third of all workplace injuries occurring as a result of moving and handling, it’s important to know the safety measures that can be put in place to reduce or remove the risk of harm to you and those around you. The most common measure is the safe use of moving and handling equipment and knowing how to operate these types of equipment can make the difference between a safe work environment and a dangerous one.

So, whether you’re an apprentice working in an industrial environment where moving and handling equipment is a key part of your role, or your looking to brush up on the best practice ways to use manual handling equipment, you’ve come to the right place!

What is moving and handling?

Moving and handling can be seen in almost every industry and can relate to the moving and handling of people, animals or inanimate objects such as boxes, equipment and furniture. Most commonly, manual handling is found in construction, warehousing and agriculture – although this list is not exhaustive.

According to The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, moving and handling by definition involves the transportation or supporting of a load (including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving) by hand or bodily force.

In most industries where manual handling is required, the implementation of manual handling equipment is vital to keep operations running smoothly and to keep workers safe at all times. However, unless you are familiar with each piece of equipment and have up to date training on how they operate, these types of machinery can often be just as high-risk as working without them.

What is moving and handling equipment?

Whilst plenty of laborious roles can be safely carried out without the use of specialist moving and handling equipment, many rely heavily on these to get the job done both efficiently and safely.

Depending on the specific industry you’re in, moving and handling equipment could be any number of things. From lift trucks and cranes to goods lifts, moving and handling equipment can take many shapes, but knowing how to operate these and follow legislation is vital.

We will take a look at some of the most important moving and handling legislation out there, but first let’s look at some of the most common kinds of moving and handling equipment out there.

Taking a look at some of the most common moving and handling equipment

As well as being familiar with some of most popular kinds of moving and handling equipment, it’s also important to know the different things to look out for both before, during and after operating takes place.

Manual handling equipment being used at work

Lift Trucks

Lift trucks, or forklift trucks are one of the most commonly used pieces of moving and handling equipment on the market and can be seen used in a range of industries including supermarkets, warehouses, stores as well as outdoor use on stable and level ground.

Commonly used to lift and transport heavy goods, lift trucks use two metal prongs that slide underneath an object and work as a secure platform to transport to another location.

Although very common, lift trucks can pose a serious risk if proper measures are not carried out. Government information on the correct use of a lift truck.


Industrial cranes are used frequently in construction sites, and can safely lift and move extremely heavy weights, in some cases as much as 20,000 tonnes. To safely use a crane, you must be appropriately trained, with the correct license and be supervised by an appropriate person. Tower cranes are amongst the most popular type of moving and handling crane, and since 2001 have been responsible for 61 accidents, including 9 fatalities. Knowing how to operate these machines safely is therefore paramount, regardless of your particular role.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, safe crane use can be boiled down to four key areas:

    • Planning lifting operations.
    • Safe systems of work.
    • Supervision of lifting.
    • Thorough examination.

The two main risks associated with cranes are collapsing of the crane and falling of the load – and both of these risks can cause serious injury or death if proper measures are not carried out.

Electric tugs

Electrical tugs are vital pieces of moving and handling equipment, particularly in stores and warehouses. These battery powered machines are pedestrian-operated and are used to carry and transport heavy goods, removing the physical strain of repetitive carrying of heavy loads.

Electric tugs are typically used to push and pull heavy loads, but care must be taken to ensure that risks are kept at a minimum during use, as these machines could cause harm to the user or others.

Workers using manual handling in their job

How moving and handling equipment can be used safely

There are a number of safety measures you should take when operating any type of machinery, and these may vary depending on the type of handling machine you are using. Here are some of the most important things to consider when operating handling equipment.

  • Before operating any handling machinery, it is imperative that you first carry out a pre-shift check for any clear and obvious faults or damages.
  • Like with any moving vehicles, it is important to thoroughly check your surroundings before moving off. Similarly, you should be conscious of your surroundings throughout use, whether that be in a lift truck or operating an electric tug to ensure no people or obstacles are in your path.
  • Keep to the speed limit required of your environment (typically, outdoors requires a speed of 20km/h, whilst indoors requires a speed of 10km/h.
  • Always remain vigilant of pedestrians and obstructions.
  • Reduce speed on approach to corners and narrow passageways.
  • Always apply the parking brake when leaving your machinery (if applicable).
  • When disembarking a vehicle (where applicable such as a lift truck), always face the machinery and use the steps and handles available.
  • It is vital that you are fully trained and qualified to use that piece of machinery, regardless of what it is. Unless you have had the appropriate training in manual handling and authorisation by management, you should never use any type of moving equipment.

The risks of using moving and handling equipment incorrectly

Although it may seem tempting to use a piece of handling equipment that has presented with a minor bit of damage, it can in fact be incredibly harmful and pose a high risk not only to you as the operator, but also to your colleagues and other pedestrians. Equally, it’s crucial that you only use moving and handling equipment if you have undergone specialist training and hold any necessary qualifications.

If you suspect your equipment to be faulty in any way, or don’t adhere to best practice the risk you are taking could be detrimental, and in some cases fatal. Here are just a few pointers of how to handle a risk associated with moving and handling equipment:

  • If the equipment you are using is raised high off the ground, mounting and dismounting can pose a risk. It is therefore important to maintain three points of contact to the equipment at all times to avoid any accidents occurring. This can be either one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot. This can vastly reduce the risk of slipping and falling.
  • Never exceed the maximum weight of a load. A load that weighs more than the equipment can handle can be incredibly dangerous and could cause the entire vehicle to tip. Never cut corners to get a job done quicker, it’s simply not worth the consequences.
  • Never try to steady an unstable load, if you feel like your load is uneven or could fall, place it to the ground before adjusting. Manually adjusting a load could cause it to fall on you, or someone else causing severe harm.
  • Always be sure to use the appropriate equipment when moving or lifting any heavy item, even if you feel you could lift it yourself. Lifting heavy items manually can cause serious and lasting back damage and is simply not worth the risk.
  • Always ensure a risk assessment has been performed before using any moving and handling equipment.
Worker injured after manual handling equipment

Moving and handling legislation to be aware of

According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, work-related low back pain injuries are the most common type of musculoskeletal disorders caused by manual handling. So, it’s never been so important to be aware of the legislation surrounding safe manual handling equipment. If you’re unfamiliar with moving and handling equipment legislation or find it all to be a bit overwhelming here is a list of some of the most important pieces, and what they entail.

  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)- This is a piece of legislation aimed at employers to ensure the work equipment they own, operate and have control over is safe for use. This includes ensuring all work equipment is maintained and in a good working order, and that maintenance is kept up to date with a paper trail on any and all maintenance work carried out.
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) – Is vast and includes a range of rules laid out for employers, employees, volunteers and visitors to stay safe in the workplace. Those who are faced with faulty equipment or feel there is a risk in the workplace can refer to this Act for guidance on the best action to take.
  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) – This legislation is directly associated with the safe use of lifting equipment and is aimed at those who own, operate or have control over such handling equipment.

Are you up to date with moving and handling equipment best practice?

When it comes to working with moving and handling equipment, there’s no time like the present to get up to speed with best practice. Failure to adhere to the most up to date training and legislation could come with a host of serious risks and so it’s important that you are confident in operating the handling equipment in your work place, and know what actions to take in the case of a breach of safety.

Here at CPD Online, we specialise in online courses to support and help you thrive in your chosen industry. Amongst a huge selection of speciality courses we have a number dedicated to health and safety in the workplace, including working at a height, health and safety level 2 and manual handling. So, whatever stage you’re at in your career, if you’re looking to brush up on your skills and knowledge, why not get in touch with us today?

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About the author

Fiona Peake

Fiona Peake

Fiona has been writing for a number of years. With a special interest in turning complicated topics into readable, enjoyable words. Fiona has written across a range of subjects from health & safety and education to business and marketing. Outside of work Fiona likes to spend time with her husband and her Romanian rescue dog River, taking him for long walks outdoors, Fiona also likes to go to the gym and relax with a good book.

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