Unsafe? Surely Not! But it really is!

Activities that involve lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and other related manoeuvres are an inevitable part of our daily lives; whether it be at work or even at home.  Mechanical aids can be used to replace our human effort but we find that sometimes we may still need to use our own strength.

However, if not done correctly, manual handling can lead to the gradual deterioration of both physical and mental health.  Receiving proper training in manual handling is required in order to learn and meet safer practice under the Manual Handling Operations Legislation 1992.

Our bodies have amazing capabilities, BUT also limitations.  Like machines, they are going to develop faults and break down after long-term misuse.

There have been many manual handling techniques that were used widely – especially in the Health Sector but are now considered “Controversial”.

The following moves are a small selection of known techniques that have the potential of causing injury to both employees and patients and should not be used except in exceptional circumstances e.g. emergency or life-threatening situations.



This includes any way of handling the patient in which the handler places a hand or an arm under the patient’s axilla (armpit), whether the patient is being moved up the bed, sat up in the bed, being assisted from sitting to standing, or being assisted to change from one seated position to another – and regardless of whether the handler is facing or behind the patient, or whether there is more than one handler.

This move was condemned by the RCN in 1981 (NBPA/RCN, 1997) and reclassified as a controversial technique in 2005 (The Guide to the Handling of People, 5th Edition).



   © EDGE Services


Lift-slide, regardless of whether the ‘free’ arm is placed on the bed for ‘support’ or placed around the patient.

This lift was condemned by the RCN in 1996 (NBPA/RCN, 1997) and reclassified as a controversial technique in 2005 (The Guide to the Handling of People, 5th Edition). All manual lifts are dangerous, so even though the shoulder or Australian lift was considered one of the safer lifts, it still has risks (Scholey, 1982; Ergonomics Research Unit, 1986; Pheasant, Holmes and Stubbs 1992).

                                                                                                                                                                                              © EDGE Services


This two-person lift, in which the handlers place one arm around the patient’s back, and the other under the patient’s thighs.  The handlers may clasp each other’s wrists, or they may hold the far side of the patient.  Handling slings are sometimes used.  In all cases these lifts are dangerous for the patient and for the handlers.

This lift was condemned by the RCN in 1987 (NBPA / RCN, 1997) and reclassified as a controversial technique in 2005 (The Guide to the Handling of People, 5th Edition).  Any modification of this lift using handling slings is also unsafe.  Using two blue plastic handling slings (one under the patient’s back and one under the patient’s thighs) is still an orthodox lift and must not be used.  It was the original method used to lift a patient where a handler stood on either side of bed, clasped their wrists under the patient’s thighs and behind their back.  It is very, very dangerous.

                                                                © EDGE Services

PIVOT TRANSFER (arms around the care-handler’s neck)

Front Assisted Stand/Pivot Transfers: Auxiliary, clinging ivy, rocking lift, elbow lift, belt holds from front, face to face.  This lift involves moving or supporting a patient with their arms or hands around the handler’s neck.  This is particularly dangerous if the patient does not stand, or collapses when his or her arms are around the handler’s neck, all their weight is hung around the neck, which can cause too much strain/injury to the handler.

                                                                                                                                                                                        © EDGE Services


BEAR HUG (arms around the care-handler’s waist)

Both the patient and the care handler holding in a hugging fashion from mid-waist area to enable the handler to assist in getting patient up to a standing position.


                                                                                                                                                                                            © EDGE Services



The use of poles and canvas – a controversial technique and deemed an unsafe technique that involves handlers taking the whole weight of the person using canvass material that is supported by two poles which can result in injury to both the patient or the handlers.

Any move where staff lift the whole or a large part of the weight of a patient, including:

  • manually lifting patients up off the floor
  • manually lifting patients in and out of the bath
  • manually straight-lifting patients

can cause a significant risk of injury to both the care handlers and patient/service user.

Equally, if the patient/service user becomes unsteady and is close to a chair or bed, then the care handler should guide them into the chair or onto the bed. The handler should not ‘lower’ the patient/service user unless they feel they are capable to do so and if their trust policy allows it within the handling of that individual.

All these techniques have been replaced with equipment or other safer moving and handling options – call us today at SALVEO SAFETY to book your next moving and handling training and benefit from our 20 years of experience in the field.  Our specialists carry out all types of work including consultancy, training and risk assessments.


Bella Glover – Moving & Handling Consultant

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