Keoghs Insight


Claire Rowlands

Manual handling practice guidance on claims defensibilty

Food for Thought Winter 18-19

Manual handling operations are a significant risk factor in the development of Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs is a term used to cover injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissue in the upper/lower limbs or back. They account for 41% of all ill health cases, 34% of working days lost and are one of HSE’s focus areas for 2018/2019.

Across our own food and drink clients, manual handling is the second top cause type for the claims we receive. The average cost of claim for our food and drink clients is £5,565 inclusive of costs. In addition to this, there can be a number of hidden costs to your business such as time spent investigating, production delays, overtime working, lost time, and customer impact.

Over 30% of food and drink industry injuries reported to the HSE are manual handling injuries

Employer’s obligations

A breach of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992 is no longer actionable in the civil courts since section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 came into force.
However an employee is more able to prove that an employer has been negligent if the employer is unable to show that the risk of the manual handling task has been reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

The Regulations require an employer to manage the risks to their employees by:

  • Avoiding hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable
  • Making a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk of injury
  • Reducing the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable

Defensibility issues

There are a number of factors which may impact your defensibility prospects, the most common being;

  • The employee has not been adequately trained
  • Training records are missing or incomplete
  • There is a lack of suitable risk assessments
  • Poor manual handling behaviours have become accepted practise

Practical guidance

Reducing the risk of injury is an ongoing process for an employer. Below we set out some practical guidance addressing what you can do to helpn improve your defensibility prospects.

Risk assessments

  • Ensure current risk assessments are relevant and up to date
  • Consider whether task specific risk assessments would eliminate any gaps in your generic risk assessments
  • Ensure control measures identified to reduce the risks are fully implemented and followed
  • Make risk assessments accessible to all along with safe systems of work

Mechanical handling equipment

  • Enforcing the use of MHE – utilise management team to ensure this is monitored and processes followed
  • Maintaining MHE so always safe and available for use – through regular inspection and maintenance


  • Practical training rather than classroom or online training is vital for a practical task
  • Regular refresher training to remind employees of correct processes
  • Train your managers to continually assess and correct technique and prevent development of poor technique
  • Electronic training records stored securely are preferable to paper records
  • Train your managers to continually assess and correct technique and prevent development of poor technique
  • Electronic training records stored securely arepreferable to paper records

Incident investigation

  • A thorough post incident investigation will enable the root cause to be identified
  • Establish next steps and implement any preventative measures to reduce the risk of a future similar incident