Safe moving and handling: Ready for an HSE visit this Autumn?

How would your building firm perform if inspected for safe moving and handling? What are you doing to protect your team from injuries and aches, and musculoskeletal disorders? Do you know how to minimise the risks? Read on for some advice.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Inspectors are carrying out visits nationwide from September 2023 onwards. This new initiative is supported by the ‘Work Right Construction: Your Health Your Future’ campaign focusing on the risks to construction workers when they’re lifting and carrying. And we’re talking sub-contractors as well – if you’re managing a site you’re responsible for their wellbeing too – even though they’re not on your payroll.


Long term back and knee pain is not the inevitable outcome of working on a building site. It doesn’t ‘go with the territory’, it’s not ‘the price you pay’ for working in the industry. The law requires employers to control the risks of ill health of their workers, which includes pain in muscles, bones, joints and nerves that can develop over time, known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). However, in the most recent period an estimated 42,000 people in the construction industry suffered from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder, which can cause years of agonising aches and pains. This amounts to 53% of all ill health in the construction sector.

According to the Workright campaign, this ‘… can have a serious impact on workers’ ability to perform tasks; their quality of life; and in some cases, their ability to stay in work and earn a living. Many can and do suffer from long-term pain and discomfort.’

Matt Birtles, principal ergonomist at HSE, said: “It is important that the issue of manual handling is not downplayed. Serious aches, pains and strains should not be accepted as routine when working in construction. These can dramatically affect every part of someone’s life – with sufferers struggling to get themselves dressed and undressed, and unable to pick up their children or grandchildren.

“The culture of a site may mean many people feel uncomfortable talking about these issues but if your back has gone or if you’re in agony whenever you move your arms, measures need to be put in place to address the causes.”


The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 set out a clear hierarchy of measures for dealing with risk likely to cause harm from manual handling. These are:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as reasonably practicable.
  • Assess any manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury to as low as reasonably practicable.

HSE inspectors will look for evidence of employers and workers:

  1. Knowing the risks.
  2. Planning their work to eliminate or substitute the risks where possible.
  3. Using the right controls where elimination or substitution of the risks is not possible.


  • Are you aware of the risks?
  • Are your workers aware of the risks?
  • Do you avoid large bags of materials?
  • Do you use mechanical aids?
  • Are your workers trained in lifting safely?


Download the HSE’s MAC tool – the Manual Handling Assessment Charts >>

Can you reduce the risk of injury by:

  • Using a lifting aid?
  • Changing the workplace layout to improve efficiency?
  • Reducing the amount of twisting and stooping?
  • Avoiding lifting from floor level or above shoulder height, especially heavy loads?
  • Reducing carrying distances?
  • Using powered handling devices to eliminate pushing and pulling?
  • Avoiding repetitive handling?
  • Taking steps to reduce fatigue?
  • Varying the work, allowing one set of muscles to rest while another is used?

Can you make the load being moved or handled:

  • lighter or less bulky?
  • easier to grasp?
  • more stable?
  • less harmful?
  • evenly stacked?

If the load comes in from elsewhere, have you asked the supplier to help, eg by providing handles or smaller packages?

Are you thinking of the individual? Their height for instance? Can you:

  • Consider the design of the task?
  • Pay particular attention to those who have a physical weakness?
  • Take extra care of, eg new or expectant mothers and new/young workers?
  • Give your workers more information, eg about the range of tasks?
  • Provide more training?
  • Get advice from an occupational health advisor if you need to?

Of course there are many other factors to take into consideration alongside those listed here. Read the HSE guidance or use the advice and documentation provided by Health & Safety Xpert.

What happened in last year’s inspection

The positive: Inspections in 2022 found widespread methods that can protect workers such as the use of mechanical equipment to handle large glazing panes, using small inexpensive air bags to help to position heavy doors when being installed, and the use of all-terrain pallet trucks to move blocks and brick-lifters to carry bricks around site.

The negative: However, inspectors also found many examples of poor practice, some of which resulted in enforcement action, such as a worker lifting an 80kg kerb on his own without any assistance from machinery, lifting aids or colleagues, and a 110kg floor saw that had to be moved into and out of a work van by two operatives at a street works site.


Our Health & Safety Xpert software tool addresses the issue of moving and handling through its:

  • Risk Assessments
  • Method Statements
  • Toolbox Talks
  • Site Set Up Checklist
  • Site Rules
  • Site Induction

The software tool helps you spot the dangers and proposes what to do and when to discuss how to best control the hazards with your team. Information and awareness are provided by relevant health and safety documentation which brings potential situations and solutions to your attention. Simply tell the software what you’re building and it will give you the information relevant to the job. Then it’s over to you to follow the guidance. If you already have EstimatorXpress you just have to load your estimate file into Health & Safety Xpert, answer a couple of questions and watch it work its magic!


There are a range of courses available through our partnership with VideoTile. Relevant to the current initiative is Manual Handling. You can complete the course at your own pace, and in your own time, and they’re great value for money. They’re worth doing, considering what’s at stake. Who else from your team would benefit?

The cost of non-compliance

There’s a financial implication to not following guidance. The HSE charges for the time spent investigating violations of health and safety laws – this is the Fee for Intervention (FFI). Although, this fee often applies when an inspector discovers an issue which they consider to be significant enough to contact you about. If you weigh up all the risks to your workers’ health, is it really worth the added worry of being charged a fee as well?


You can book a quick online demonstration of Health & Safety Xpert or request a free 14-day trial. Just give us a call on 0117 916 7898 for a quick chat, and we’ll help you be prepared for any inspection.