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Off the shelf handling training 'a waste of money', HSE warns

Employers should not invest in generic manual handling training, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned.

‘Off the shelf’ handling training a waste of money, HSE warns
Image credit: ©D-Keine

The executive has published a new web guide that it hopes will prevent employers from investing in generalised training courses for lifting after research found they were ineffective in controlling manual handling risks at work. 

The information has been divided into categories, including risk assessment, workplace organisation, attitudes and behaviours, and uses hypothetical scenarios to help employers determine what assistance they need to tackle musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among their staff. 

It also includes a list of professional bodies, consultant registers and qualification awarding bodies who could offer further assistance. 

The advice was developed with input from more than 20 organisations including IOSH, British Safety Council, EEF manufacturers’ organisation, National Safety Industry Federation, Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register and Parcel Carriers Safety Association.  

Launching the online tool at its inaugural MSD Summit today (21 March), the HSE’s health and work portfolio manager Geoff Cox said: “Our research shows that simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money. 

“The overall aim is to avoid and reduce manual handling, and that’s where employers should start if their workforce faces manual handling risks. Don’t start with training; start with reorganising and redesigning your working practices. 

“If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customised and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices, and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce.” 


Keeley Downey is acting deputy editor of IOSH Magazine. She is a former editor of Biofuels International, Bioenergy Insight and Tank Cleaning Magazine


  • At last ... I could not agree

    Permalink Submitted by Chris Harris on 23 March 2018 - 12:44 pm

    At last ... I could not agree more. I have often had to implement this type of training over the years with little faith in it's worth. I did so in my early career partly because of naivety, peer pressure, easy option and lack of real personal knowledge.
    All that wasted time and resource and its been repeated by thousands of others for years, then I questioned it more and more and resisted it more and more.
    Robust risk assessment and real control measures are what we should be doing and not telling people to 'look at the funny cartoon of people lifting cardboard boxes'.
    Well done to the HSE and others calling it out!

  • I frequently get asked if we

    Permalink Submitted by Philippa Myall-Chance, Initiafy.com on 23 March 2018 - 04:47 pm

    I frequently get asked if we provide off the shelf training and the answer is always NO. Health & Safety training needs to be tailored to the company, the site being worked on and the role being performed in order for it to be effective which is exactly why Initiafy offers a completely bespoke platform to deliver the specific training needed to all different types of workers coming to site. Great to see the HSE acknowledging the need for training to be customised in this way.


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