Manual Handling Tasks: The 5 Most Common Tasks

Written by Matilda Odell
Health, Safety & Ergonomics, News & Insights

Manual handling is a common and necessary task in warehouses and distribution centres. It involves the physical movement of materials, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and moving objects without the aid of machinery. While manual handling is a necessary part of the job, it can also be a source of injury and discomfort. To minimize the risk of injury and maximize the efficiency of manual material handling tasks, it is essential to use the correct techniques and equipment.

It is important to be aware of the risks associated with manual handling and to take the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy. In this article, we, therefore, will walk you through the most common manual material handling tasks in warehouses.

Background on Manual Handling Tasks

Manual handling includes the moving and lifting of objects by hand. It is a very common task in warehouses, where workers often have to lift boxes and move pallets of goods.

It involves tasks such as lifting, lower, loading, and unloading materials from pallets, trucks, or containers, as well as moving them to different locations on the site. In manual material handling tasks, it is essential for operators to be aware of the requirements and techniques needed to move items securely. This includes understanding the type of force that must be used, as well as any other relevant information pertaining to the task. Failing to properly assess the situation can lead to serious injuries. Therefore it is important that employers ensure that their operators are aware of the necessary safety protocols and the right techniques when it comes to manual handling tasks. And provide them with the right equipment and training to carry out these jobs safely. Doing so can help prevent injuries and ensure that the workplace remains a safe and productive environment.

Although many companies have adopted automated methods of handling items and loads in the workplace, some require manual handling. Other companies are still using manual handling despite technological growth, and humans must use their own strength and energy to handle loads manually. In this case, various types of handling tasks are used. These tasks include lifting, lowering, pulling, pushing, and moving.

Operator performing a manual handling task in a warehouse


In simple terms, manual handling lifting involves picking up a load from the ground to a higher level either for stacking, loading, or creating a better position for carrying a load. Lifting is a manual handling task used in almost all the movements of loads or items in a warehouse. As a result, lifting is one of the most common manual handling tasks in warehouses and distribution centres, and since the load’s weight varies widely, various loads require different lifting positioning and energy.


Lowering is a manual handling task involving the movement of an item from a higher level to a lower level. It is used widely in warehouses and distribution centres because it is used simultaneously with lifting. Every time lifting is involved, lowering occurs simultaneously. Through this, it is one of the most important manual handling tasks in the workplace. It is used in unstacking, stacking, loading, offloading, carrying, and others.


Pulling is a manual handling task involving using force to drag an item when it is behind you. In this case, pulling can be done for large and small items. Although it is used for small and lighter items, it is not always the best practice, it depends on the product’s nature. Some products are packaged in wheeled boxes, which can be pulled easily on the ground from one place to another. When pulling heavier materials, they should be placed on trolleys or carts for them to be moved from one place to another without much effort and to ensure safe work procedures are intact. As a result, pulling is a commonly used manual handling task in warehouses.


Pushing is a manual handling task involving pushing an item on the floor. This means that one exerts a force on an item in front of them to make it move from one place to another. Pushing is mostly used for short-distance movements of materials to reduce the impact of friction on it. Most items that require pushing are heavy and, hence, pushed for a short distance before finding other means of movement.

Pushing and pulling are used for the same purposes in the facility and help reduce the need to lift items. Even short distances, some items require lifting and lowering to ensure they are not damaged from friction. However, pushing is recommended for large and heavier objects whose lifting and lowering can be tedious. In this case, although items should be lifted at some point, lifting and lowering heavy items may be difficult; hence, people are required to drag them to minimize excessive force and avoid injuries.


Movement is the shifting of the location of an item from one place to another. It can be done through lifting, pulling, pushing, and lowering. It is the core manual handling task that requires all the other manual handling tasks for it to be successful.

Altogether, the five manual handling tasks make warehousing complete and manageable where everything is put into place through either of them or multiple manual handling tasks.

Matilda Odell
Matilda Odell works as the Content Creation Specialist at the brand TAWI, a brand by Piab Group, which enables smart lifting optimized for people and businesses.

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