• Carl Sievewright CMIOSH CMaPS

Manual Handling in Shopfitting

Manual handling injuries were responsible for a staggering 6.6 MILLION lost working days last year and 469,000 people suffered musculoskeletal disorders, caused by manual handling. Below I’ve outlined some important information on manual handling, especially the things key to the shopfitting and interior fit-out industry, which I’ve been working in for the last 12 years.

What Does the Law Say?

Manual Handling is so significant that it has its own set of regulations – called The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. In the regulations, ‘manual handling operations’ are defined as any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving) by hand or by bodily force. The regulations require organisations to avoid manual handling, where you can. They also say if you cannot, you need to assess the task. When assessing the task, everything you need to consider is listed in schedule 1 of the manual handling regulations. For all but the most simple of manual handling assessments, it is advisable to get some expert advice when carrying out the assessment, to make sure you’ve considered the task completely. We give you some tips below.

What do you need to do?

Manual handling is very important to the shopfitting industry. Every project will have an element of manual handling. This will range from moving sheet materials to bringing in bulky, often top or side heavy, finished furniture, such as cash desks or display units. Specialist trades, such as glaziers, tilers and structural steel installers, will also have their own manual handling tasks. You will also need to consider moving items via hoists or goods lifts. Not only are the loads often heavy, they can be difficult, unbalanced or fragile and access routes are often a challenge.

The main things to consider

As an employer, you need to make sure any manual handling tasks, which could cause injury, are avoided, if you cannot avoid manual handling, then you need to carry out an assessment of the risk, with the aim of reducing the risk of injury as much as you can, the acronym TILE is often used, reminding the assessor to consider:

  1. Task - What does the lift looks like? Is it reaching above the head, or far away from the body?

  2. Individual – Is the person capable of carrying out the task? Special consideration should be given to younger workers, those with existing health conditions which could be made worse by manual handling and those who might reasonably be considered to be pregnant

  3. Load – Lots of materials are available in a maximum of a 25kg bag (as this is a number which comes up in HSE guidance on manual handling, although it doesn’t tell the whole story). However, there is more to managing the risks from manual handling than just ordering 25kg bags. The weight distribution of the load makes a huge difference to how easy the item is to carry, and how easy it is to grip and keep hold of will also make a huge difference.

  4. Environment – The place where the lift or moving is being carried out, also needs to be assessed. Is the floor slippery? Are there bends or tight corners you need to carry things around? Are there stairs which need to be navigated?

Generally, the best way to reduce the risk of injury is to provide manual handling aids. These come in many shapes and sizes, depending on the material being lifted and the route the material is travelling. But you need to select the right equipment for the job.

What can help?

A full assessment will help you to decide the best course of action, however in my experience the most widely used manual handling aids in shopfitting are:

  • Board trolleys, which are great for transporting sheet material through back of house corridors as the angle the board is carried, reduces the effective width, making moving boards from loading bays to your unit much easier

  • Pallet trucks or pump trucks are also commonly used and, unsurprisingly, are great for moving palletised items, such as tiles, bagged building materials and finished joinery items

  • Rubble trucks often reduce the need to carry dustbins around site or to the skip

  • Four wheel turntable trucks are often used on site to bring deliveries in. They don’t have the same capacity as a pallet truck or board trolley, but are easier to push/pull thanks to the pneumatic tyres.

  • More recently I have seen pipe racks used on shopfitting sites to carry and store lengths of material, particularly stud and track used when drylining. In the past, it was common, as the project progressed, to manually move piles of material many times, especially on small sites where space is at a premium. With pipe racks, the material can be easily pushed to a more convenient location, saving time, and reducing the risk of injury.

Armorgard Pipe Rack

All of the manual handling items above are readily available from shopfitting supply companies such as WF Supplies, who supply a large number of shopfitting and interior fit out contractors.

Where can I get more help or advice?

The HSE have published almost endless guidance on manual handling, particularly the busy builder series of information leaflets which offer concise easy to understand information on a host of construction topics, some links can be found at the bottom of this post under 'Resources'.

If you need more help complying with the Manual Handling regulations or wider health, safety + CDM advice, my team at Saxon Safety can help you. We provide a health, safety and CDM advisory service to our clients, advising and helping them to comply with their duties under CDM 2015. We work with principal contractors on retail fit-out projects and understand the specific challenges faced by the industry (including the need to be flexible, fast moving and commercially aware). We can be a source of competent advice and assistance with templates and formatting, or we can take full ownership of the safety compliance of a project.

We routinely carry out regular site inspections for principal contractors, across the UK, and we focus on always getting buy-in from the site teams, ensuring they see the reasons why we have to work the way we do.

Get in touch on for more information.


HSE Manual Handling Web Pages

HSE INDG 398 - Making the best use of lifting and handling aids

HSE CIS 61 - Manual handling - What you need to know as a busy builder

HSE CIS 76 - Preventing injury during plasterboard handling - What you need to know as a busy builder

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