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Off the Shelf/Online Manual Handling Training ‘a Waste of Money’ HSE Warns.

Updated: Apr 1, 2020


Now don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see the reasons why companies go with, or buy into the appeal of online or DVD manual handling training.


  •    Less time away from duties and less hassle to offline departments to take part in a training session.

  • It’s generally cheaper than getting an external instructor to carry out the training.

  • Easier to “tick the box” that all staff have received some form of manual handling training as part of HSE requirements.

  • Easier to carry out and organise the annual/refresher training.

  • Most employees have access to the internet/intranet and can access the training.


These courses can also be referred to as ‘off the shelf training’, they are generalised and nonspecific to the recipient. After viewing the same video twice the viewer will lose interest as they will be familiar with the content. Think about when you are watching a film for the third time, you pretty much know what is coming and what is going on with the plot. It would have to be a really good film for most people to watch it 3 times.  


With this form of training, there is no ability for the viewer to ask questions. In fact, some of these have a test at the end that just establishes if you understood what not to do and potential issues, and does not explain the solution. A lot of manual handling training, including some instructor delivered training, is all about how you may injure yourself if you do this, or if you lift incorrectly like that. Which is an important part of training, but here is the real question the employee wants to know – “So how do I move this item or carry out this task without getting an injury?” With any classroom-based course, this is a practical question that simply can not be answered in this environment. The most effective thing to do, is to go to the area and address the question in the working environment, demonstrate the correct techniques to use, get the employee to demonstrate back, carry out an observation while the employee is demonstrating, get the employee to practice slowly and work up to a more natural speed. This is not something that can be achieved by viewing online.

So, what would a ‘gold standard’ manual handling course contain?  

  • Small amount of theory (to cover how injuries occur)

  • Large amount of practical.

  • Practical element to take place in the employee’s area of work

  • Practical training based on observation of current working practices

  • How to handle items at low, medium and high levels.

  • How to handle items at varying distances from the body.

  • How to use lifting equipment correctly from an anatomical perspective.

  • The best way to lift, lower, carry, push, pull and throw items.

  • Cover spatial awareness to prevent slip, trip and falls.

  • How to spot correct and incorrect techniques in work colleagues.

  • How to use good technique all day everyday even away from work.


If you can fulfil the above requirements on a course, then there is no doubt the course will more than cover the ‘duty of care’ requirements for your employees. 


If your employees feel that you are concerned about providing them with good quality training and investing in them, they will feel more valued and willing to invest more into their work and your business. 


If correct technique is used throughout the day, the pressure on the employees’ body is massively reduced, the employee feels more comfortable and happy working and is therefore at their most productive. What happens following their working day is equally, if not more important to the employee, but having aches and pains can hugely impact home life as well as work life.

A  good company and managers should care about the overall welfare of their employees, as home life can have an impact on work life and vice versa. If a company and managers don’t care about the whole welfare of their staff and have no “duty of care”, for example, being solely task and target focused, you have a problem. This work culture will result in staff feeling undervalued, unsupported and unappreciated, damaging the productivity, effort they are willing to put in and the quality of their work. Ultimately resulting in missed targets and a high turnover of staff, as people don’t leave bad businesses, they leave bad managers.

The HSE recently said that “Industry needs to get more innovative with regards to Manual Handling”. Easy to say, but hard to do if you are a Health and Safety advisor who is wanting the best training for your colleagues. Training alone does not work! There needs to be a realistic plan before any training takes place, where all areas of your business are assessed. Then relevant training delivered to the right staff in the right area.

Finally, there needs to be a plan to maintain the new practice that the company are employing. This is best done at the manager/team leader/supervisor level. They are ultimately responsible directly for their staff and have daily interactions. If they observe incorrect technique and “walk on by”, again a bad leader.


At Elite Force Safety, our staff have spent years in many different industries coming up with relevant and clear programmes for Manual Handling and Train the Trainer. If you are serious about YOUR duty of care to your staff and would like the best for them, or if you are interested in our Manager Leadership and Communication training solutions, then contact us and we will see where and how we can help. We have never failed to help so far.




#TailorMadeTraining #ManualHandling

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