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Knowledge Base » Health and Safety » TILE Manual Handling

TILE Manual Handling

Last updated on 24th April 2023

Incorrect or unsafe manual handling procedures are having a detrimental effect on the health and safety of the UK’s workforce.

According to Unison, a third of all workplace accidents in the UK are caused by manual handling. Every year, 300,000 people suffer from back pain as a result of manual handling.

Shockingly, almost 5 million working days are lost every year as a result of non-fatal workplace injuries. Many of these days are lost as a result of manual handling incidents.

Today, we are going to look at manual handling in more detail, focusing specifically on TILE manual handling.

What does TILE stand for?

TILE is an acronym that is used in the workplace to help employers and managers to carry out manual handling risk assessments. TILE covers the four key areas of manual handling and should be carefully considered before carrying out any manual handling tasks or operations in the workplace.

TILE stands for:

  • Task.
  • Individual.
  • Load.
  • Environment.

Any employers or employees who are evaluating risk, conducting a risk assessment, or considering the safest way to handle a load, should take into account the TILE acronym. Risk assessments should be carried out before manual handling tasks are undertaken, and TILE helps to determine whether the task is safe to carry out.

TILE encourages you to consider every essential area of the manual handling task in order to ensure optimal health and safety. Before undertaking any manual handling task, you should first ascertain whether any risks will be present during the task. The TILE acronym helps you to determine which factors of the activity are most likely to pose a risk.

Man carrying out TILE

What does TILE stand for when considering manual handling hazards?

When considering manual handling hazards, TILE helps you to carry out a manual handling risk assessment and remove or significantly reduce any potential risks or hazards that may affect the health and safety of any individuals involved in a manual handling activity in the workplace.

Understanding each crucial potential risk area of the manual handling activity can help to protect both the employer and the employee from potential injuries and illnesses.

Let’s take a look at the TILE acronym in more detail.

T = Task

You must consider the nature of the manual handling task that is about to take place, what is involved, how risky it is and how it may affect the health and safety of the individuals performing the task, as well as anyone else who may be affected.

You must identify the type and scale of activity and movement that is involved. For example, is excessive pushing, pulling, lifting or lowering required? Are the movements involved excessive, sudden or repetitive? Is prolonged physical effort required?

It is recommended to reduce the risk factors as much as possible or reconsider the task. Identifying alternative ways to complete the task can help to reduce the risk of injury. You should also consider whether there is time for rest and recovery during the task and once the task has been completed, and if the amount of manual handling can be reduced or avoided.

I = Individual

This involves assessing the individual who will carry out the manual handling task. It is important to be aware of the different capabilities, levels of training, physical strengths, ages, heights and health conditions that may play a factor in the risk level of a manual handling activity. All of these factors play an important role in assessing whether there are any risks to the health and safety of the individual and others.

You may also need to consider factors such as whether the individual is a new or expectant mother, whether they have a disability, injury or health condition that could affect risk, and whether they have the correct knowledge and training to undertake the task.

If the risk assessment suggests that there is a high level of risk associated with a particular individual carrying out a manual handling operation, it may be recommended that a different individual carries out the task instead. An individual’s capabilities can change over time so you may need to assess their capability to undertake manual handling tasks regularly.

L = Load

This is the object or person that is being handled or moved. It is essential to consider factors such as the size, shape, weight and nature of the load and how it might impact health and safety. You may also need to consider whether the load contains any hazardous substances, whether there is a risk of spillage, and whether the load is likely to affect visibility.

Assessing the load is especially important if it is a person or animal that is being moved and any potential risks will have to be carefully considered. If the load is an object or objects, the physical container will also need to be taken into account.

Once you have taken into account all of the factors relating to the load, you may need to employ extra safety measures to ensure the load is safe to handle. Safety measures could include wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), using equipment or machinery to assist in handling, or taking the load apart to make it safer to handle.

E = Environment

When considering the environment, you must consider the area that the load is being moved in. Where the manual handling task takes place can have a huge impact on the risk level of the task.

You must consider any factors within the area that could make the manual handling activity risky, including any changes in the flooring. You should ensure you assess every part of the environment, including lighting, ventilation, and any potential trip hazards. Planning your route can help you safely transport the load, without risking the health and safety of anyone involved.

When considering the risk factors associated with the environment, it may be that the environment may need to be changed or altered before the manual handling activity begins, if any risks are identified. For example, you may change where the task takes place or where the load is stored.

Alternative ways of reducing or removing risks associated with the environment include removing potential hazards before the task begins and planning a route in advance.

Delivery men carrying heavy objects

Why is TILE manual handling so important?

Adopting TILE manual handling techniques can help you to effectively assess the risks involved in all manual handling tasks.

Conducting risk assessments for manual handling activities is a legal requirement. Employers or managers must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment if potentially hazardous manual handling operations cannot be avoided. The risk assessment should identify any potential hazards, what risks are involved in the activity and how these risks can be reduced or removed.

There are several advantages to following TILE manual handling guidelines and conducting a TILE manual handling risk assessment including:

  • Preventing manual handling injuries and illnesses.
  • Avoiding financial losses due to lost labour.
  • Ensuring employees have the knowledge, skills and training to safely undertake manual handling activities.
  • Ensuring good practice across the workplace.
  • Encouraging employees to be aware of and report any potential risks and hazards relating to a manual handling activity, equipment, or health and safety procedures.
  • Less sick days across the workforce.
  • Increasing both the employer and employees’ awareness of risks and hazards.

What is safe manual handling?

Manual handling tasks are any tasks or activities in the workplace that involve manual handling. This is any physical activity whereby you move or support a load using your hands or body.

Manual handling tasks can involve the handling of objects, people or animals and can include a range of tasks such as lifting, pushing, carrying, lowering, pulling, transporting, assembling, cleaning, packing, making deliveries, typing, operating machinery or equipment, and handling or restraining animals.

Manual handling tasks occur in a large variety of workplaces, including:

  • Hospitals.
  • Care homes.
  • Farms.
  • Veterinary clinics.
  • Schools.
  • Shops.
  • Factories.
  • Building sites.
  • Warehouses.
  • Postal and courier services and delivery drivers.

Before undertaking any manual handling tasks, you should ensure that all potential risks have been evaluated using TILE. Once this has been done, you can consider how you will achieve the manual handling task.

When undertaking any manual handling activities, there are some principles you can follow in order to ensure all manual handling practices are conducted safely and any potential risks have been reduced to the lowest possible level.

  • Plan ahead
    Plan the task carefully before you begin. This could include planning any potential routes and removing hazards or obstructions. Consider how long the task is going to take and whether you will need a rest partway through the task, as well as whether you need to use any equipment or machinery to help you. You should also calculate how much weight you are able to carry and the best way to distribute this weight using a weight guide.
  • Adopt a stable position and use the correct posture and technique
    This can help to reduce the risk of injury. If you are lifting, carrying or lowering a load, the following guidance can help to ensure your health and safety. Placing your feet shoulder-width apart and, if possible, grasping the load with both hands can reduce risk.
    If the load is being picked up from the floor, you should lower yourself towards the ground. Grasp the load firmly and use your leg muscles to lift the load into a standing position. Injuries are more likely to happen if your arms are extended, or the load is positioned at higher or lower levels. Keep the load close to your body if possible and keep your head up and positioned straight forward.
  • Wear the correct clothing
    Wear clothing that is suitable to the task and will not obstruct or cause any risk to you or others. Appropriate footwear may also be an important consideration. Depending on the type of load you are handling, you may have to wear PPE.
  • Lower and place the load carefully
    Lowering a load and placing it down can cause injuries. Be careful not to drop the load or put it down with force. You should also make sure not to make any quick movements. Lower the load in the same way that you picked it up, ensuring the correct posture and technique are employed at all times.
Veterinarian taking TILE into consideration when lifting buckets

How is TILE used in assessing risks in manual handling?

Using TILE allows you to assess the risks associated with any manual handling activity. By considering the Task, Individual, Load and Environment, you can remove or significantly reduce any potential risks, ensure that the health and safety of all involved are protected, and prevent injuries in the workplace.

When using TILE during a risk assessment for manual handling activities, you will have to carefully consider the risks associated with each of the four areas of the TILE acronym.


When considering the nature of the task, you must consider exactly what the task involves and any health and safety considerations that may be related to the task.

Some things to consider when assessing the risks include:

  • Does the task involve reaching upwards, stooping or twisting?
  • Are the physical movements that are required excessive, sudden or repetitive?
  • Does the load need to be carried or manoeuvred away from the body?
  • Is excessive pushing, pulling, lifting or lowering involved in the task?
  • Is physical effort required for a long period?
  • How long should the task take?
  • What degree of physical effort is required?
  • Is the time for rest and recovery sufficient?
  • Will the task require any poor posture?


The individual is the person who is undertaking the manual handling task. When considering any risks associated with the individual.

There are several factors that must be considered:

  • Does the task require a certain amount of physical strength?
  • Is the individual the correct height to carry out the task?
  • Does the individual have any health-related difficulties or disabilities that are relevant to the task?
  • Is the individual pregnant or a new mother?
  • Has the individual previously experienced back pain, muscular injuries or skeletal injuries?
  • Has the individual had previous manual handling training?
  • Does the individual have previous manual handling experience or existing skills?
  • Does the individual have the specific knowledge or training to complete the task?

It could be that the task itself has certain requirements that an individual must meet in order to carry out the activity safely. Alternatively, it could be that a condition, illness, disability or change in circumstance for the individual could affect the risk level of the activity.


The load itself has a big impact on the level of risk associated with a manual handling task.

There are several characteristics of the load that should be considered when assessing risk, including:

  • Is the load secured and stable or are objects likely to move during handling?
  • What is the weight of the load?
  • How is the weight of the load distributed?
  • Are the contents of the load hazardous?
  • Is there any risk of spillage from the load?
  • Are there any sharp edges?
  • Is the load likely to impact visibility?
  • Is any part of the load an extreme temperature?
  • Does the shape, size or any other factor make the load difficult to hold, grasp or carry safely?
  • Is there any risk of the load falling apart during handling?


The environment refers to the location or locations where the manual handling activity is going to take place.

Where the task takes place can have a significant impact on the risk level of the activity and there are several factors that need to be considered, including:

  • Is any part of the ground unstable or uneven?
  • Are there any potential trip hazards or slip hazards?
  • Are there are ramps, slopes, inclines, steps or other variations in floor level?
  • Is there appropriate lighting and are there any areas where lighting may affect visibility?
  • Are there any weather conditions, such as fog, rain, snow or ice, that could affect the task?
  • Could the temperature of the environment affect the task?
  • If relevant to the task, is there appropriate ventilation?
  • Are there any space constraints?

You should also consider whether the activity is taking place indoors or outdoors and how this could affect the risk level of the manual handling task.

Man injured after trip hazard

Why is it important to ensure safe manual handling techniques?

Ensuring safe manual handling techniques can help to reduce both short-term and long-term consequences of poor manual handling.

Manual handling is the most common cause of workplace injuries in the UK, with a huge 300,000 people in the UK suffering from back pain every year as a result of manual handling accidents.

Ensuring safe manual handling techniques can help to reduce or remove the risks associated with a manual handling task and prevent injuries.

Not only are manual handling accidents responsible for a huge number of employee injuries or illnesses, but they also result in a loss of productivity and working days lost every year. Ensuring the health and safety of employees can help to reduce costs associated with a loss of labour and reduce financial losses for both the employers and the employees.

As well as physical injuries, manual handling accidents can also have other significant implications for an employee, including:

  • Loss of earnings.
  • Loss of future income.
  • Mental health difficulties as a result of pain and injuries.
  • Long-term physical problems such musculoskeletal problems, pain and lack of mobility.

What injuries can be caused by manual handling?

There are several types of injuries that can be caused by undertaking manual handling tasks. Injuries can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • If the manual handling task is heavy or arduous.
  • If the task requires repetitive movements.
  • If the individual involved has a previous or existing injury.
  • If awkward positioning or incorrect posture is used during the activity.
  • If incorrect or no equipment is used when necessary.

Some injuries that can occur if risks are not carefully considered before a manual handling task takes place include:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders, including upper limb or neck disorders, lower limb disorders, and damage to joints or other tissue.
  • Back injuries or back pain.
  • Sprains.
  • Strained or sprained muscles.
  • Prolapsed discs.
  • Hernias.
  • Crushed limbs.
  • Cuts or abrasions.
  • Fractured or broken bones.
  • Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS).
  • Hand injuries.
Men using TILE to carry heavy box safely

Manual handling legislation

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992) (MHOR) is health and safety legislation designed for employers, managers and safety representatives. It was created to help remove or reduce risks associated with manual handling operations and prevent injuries to any workers who undertake manual handling tasks.

Under the MHOR, employers have a duty to manage the health and safety of all employees undertaking manual handling tasks. Employees also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own, and others, health and safety.

Under the MHOR, employers have three legal duties:

1. Where reasonably practicable, avoid the need for employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which could involve a risk of injury.

2. If the above point is not possible, make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the operation.

3. Take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable during any manual handling tasks.

Employers should establish appropriate risk reduction measures.

To do this, they must consider the risks that could arise as a result of:

  • The nature of the task.
  • The capacity of the individual.
  • The load that is being manually handled.
  • The working environment.
  • Any equipment or handling aids that are employed.
  • The duration and frequency of the task.

Considerations relating to the individual that is performing the manual handling task must determine whether the individual is at higher risk, compared to other employees.

Some factors that could increase the risk level for certain individuals include:

  • If the individual is pregnant or a new mother.
  • If the individual has a disability that may affect their ability to do the task.
  • If the individual has a health condition or a previous or existing injury that may affect their ability to do the task.
  • If the individual is an older worker.
  • If the individual has a limited understanding of English.
  • If the individual is a new, inexperienced, or temporary worker.

When conducting the risk assessment, the employer or manager should also take into account whether the employee has the knowledge and training required to undertake manual handling tasks.

Under the MHOR, employers must also keep a record of any reportable incidents that occurred as a result of manual handling tasks.

Health and safety responsibilities relating to manual handling are not the sole responsibility of the employer.

Employees also have a responsibility to:

  • Follow safe systems of work and all health and safety protocols.
  • Make proper use of any equipment that is required for their safety.
  • Use all equipment safely and correctly.
  • Inform their employer if they identify any manual handling activities that are hazardous or risky.
  • Inform their employer of any defects in equipment, systems or practices.
  • Inform their employer if they have an illness, injury or other factors that could increase the risk of any manual handling task.
  • Inform their employer if any risk assessments are no longer valid or accurate.
  • Co-operate with their employer on any health and safety matters.
  • Ensure that they do not put other people at risk.
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About the author

Nicole Murphy

Nicole Murphy

Nicole graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Psychology in 2013. She works as a writer and editor and tries to combine all her passions - writing, education, and psychology. Outside of work, Nicole loves to travel, go to the beach, and drink a lot of coffee! She is currently training to climb Machu Picchu in Peru.

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