What is the maximum weight you can lift at work?
Is there a weight limit on what you should be asked to carry at work? Here at The Compensation Experts, our manual handling guide has everything you need to know about moving objects in the workplace.
Lifting and carrying objects is a necessary part of any job, whether you’re in farming, factory work, or the office. In fact, lifting and carrying is such a common activity that many of us assume that it’s a relatively safe action to carry out.
Unfortunately, carrying out an action regularly is no guarantee that it’s a safe activity. Manual handling might be integral to many roles, but if performed incorrectly, it can lead to unwanted and painful personal injuries as well as emotional distress.
Studies have shown that manual handling of any capacity in the workplace is responsible for approximately 18% of all workplace injuries per year. That’s just under 1/5 of all workplace injuries in the UK, accounting for roughly 100,00 individuals each year who suffer an unnecessary personal injury in their role.
While many of these accidents at work might be considered light, repeated injury can lead to long-term health problems. This might result in the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as RSI and chronic joint pain, issues that can become permanent if left untreated.
This makes it vital for you and your employer to follow the recommended manual handling guidelines to minimise the risk of potential injury to the body.
What is manual handling?
Manual handling is the term used by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to refer to any activity that requires you to move or support a load with your body or hands, including carrying people and animals. Manual handling is also not limited to carrying objects, encompassing lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and moving any moveable item.
But manual handling is more than just about moving an object. It takes into account manual handling limits and the recommended safe lifting weight for individuals, so you know the maximum weight to lift in any working environment.
It’s estimated that 75% of all manual handling injuries could be prevented with proper carrying methodology and adhering to safe carrying limits, making correct knowledge of manual handling essential for a safe work environment.
What is the maximum weight you can lift at work?
It might come as a surprise to discover, but there is actually no set legal limit on the maximum weight you can lift at work.
There are numerous factors behind this reasoning, such as the unaccountable variation in size, shape, and weight of different loads. But simply put, lifting an item of any kind has the potential to cause physical injury if handled incorrectly; everyone’s safe lifting weight is different. The manual handling limits of a 60-year old or pregnant employee will be far lower than that of an athletic 25-year old.
Instead of setting a maximum weight to lift, the HSE manual handling limits offer a suggested maximum weight to lift based on the strength of the average man and woman. It’s then your employer’s responsibility to decide on an appropriate safe lifting weight within these parameters, based on the frequency of lifting.
For example, if you work in construction and are likely to be lifting objects regularly throughout the day, your employer should set their safe lifting limit lower than the maximum weight to lift to avoid upper-body injuries.
Alternatively, if you work in an office and the moving of objects is rare, then there is nothing wrong with your employer adhering to the maximum weight limit or potentially setting the safe lifting weight higher than recommended.
It’s important to note that setting the safe lifting weight higher than recommended is not illegal, but it does require your employer to carry out extensive risk assessments to ensure safe working conditions at all times. If your employer fails to do so and you suffer an injury at work, then you’re likely eligible for compensation and can make a manual handling compensation claim.
What is the maximum weight a male can lift at work based on HSE guidelines?
According to the HSE manual handling guidelines, the average maximum recommended safe lifting weight for a man is 25kg. However, this will vary depending on how you’re carrying an object. The following are recommended safe lifting limits for moving an object at different heights:
- Head height – 10kg if close to the body or 5kg if held at arm’s length.
- Shoulder height – 20kg if close to the body or 10kg if held at arm’s length.
- Elbow height – 25kg if close to the body or 15kg is held at arm’s length.
- Knuckle height – 20kg if close to the body or 10kg if held at arm’s length.
- Mid-lower leg height – 10kg if close to the body or 5kg if held at arm’s length.
What is the maximum weight a female can lift at work based on HSE guidelines?
The HSE manual handling guidelines recommend the average maximum safe lifting weight for a woman be set at 16kg. The following manual handling limits for different lifting heights are as follows:
- Head height – 7kg if close to the body or 3kg if held at arm’s length.
- Shoulder height – 13kg if close to the body or 7kg if held at arm’s length.
- Elbow height – 16kg if close to the body or 10kg is held at arm’s length.
- Knuckle height – 13kg if close to the body or 7kg if held at arm’s length.
- Mid-lower leg height – 7kg if close to the body or 3kg if held at arm’s length.
Other recommended safe lifting limits
While the previous recommended manual handling limits can be applied generally, the HSE suggests adjusting them to the lowest limit possible if you’re moving an object between height levels. For example, if you were to lift a box from the floor to above your head, it’s recommended that it weigh no more than 5kg for men or 3kg for women.
If an object is being moved by two people, the safe weight limit is not doubled. This is to account for the potential variation in physical characteristics between those lifting the object in question. Instead, the HSE guidelines state that the maximum safe lifting weight be set at 2/3 of the total combined weight limit of the two individuals. If three people are carrying an object, then the maximum weight to lift can be set at half the combined total weight limit.
The HSE does not recommend having more than three people move any object as this is liable to make it unwieldy and could potentially increase the risk of injury.
When lifting an object of any kind, it is also advised that you stick to the minimum weight limit if your movement requires any form of twisting or bending, must be carried out in a confined space, or could be considered a repeated activity over the course on several minutes.
Can I refuse to lift heavy objects at work?
As there are no legal limits on the maximum weight to lift, you’re fully within your working rights to refuse to lift heavy objects at work, provided you have a valid reason. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Being asked to carry out manual handling in an unsafe work environment.
- Your employer failing to carry out an adequate risk assessment.
- Being asked to move an object that is too heavy for you.
- Being asked to carry out manual handling before receiving adequate manual handling training.
- You’re recovering from a previous physical injury, such as an injury from a trip, slip, or fall, and could potentially make your injury worse by carrying out manual handling.
The law does state that hazardous manual handling should be avoided whenever possible to minimise risk, whether through delivery by a trained professional or some form of automation. If manual handling is unavoidable, then the HSE manual handling guidelines should be followed to minimise the risk of injury.
If you feel at risk carrying out any form of manual handling, speak to your employer about improving work conditions, or report your concerns to HR, your local authorities, or the HSE.
At the end of the day, the Manual Handling Operations Regulation 1992 (MHOR) and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 place the responsibility of ensuring safe manual handling conditions squarely on the shoulders of your employer. If they fail to provide the necessary equipment, training, knowledge, supervision, and assistance to enable you to carry out manual handling safely then this can be classed as employer negligence. This means that you’re well within your rights to make a manual handling compensation claim should an injury occur.
Everyone has the right to feel safe at work, no matter their job. But if you’ve suffered a manual handling accident at work due to someone else’s negligence, then you’re eligible to make a manual handling compensation claim.
Here at The Compensation Experts, we work with experienced personal injury solicitors to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. Our expert team will help you estimate how much you could potentially claim and pair you up with the right solicitor for your case. They’ll walk you through the claims process and keep you informed every step of the way. Get in touch today to see if you’re eligible for a no win, no fee claim*.