Moving and Handling Techniques: Essential Safer Handling of People

Moving and handling safety is one of the most important skills for people working in the health and social care sector. It’s something that carers will come across most days at work and that’s why it’s crucial that the right moving and handling training is put in place to avoid any injury. Luckily, there are a few essential techniques to follow when learning how to safely assist people without the risk of danger to you or your patient. In this blog, we review the main techniques and plenty of advice on how to move and handle your patients safely.

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What does moving and handling mean?

Moving and handling in terms of people just refers to the manual handling of people. Others may also refer to it as manual handling, however it is not standard to say manual handling of people to differentiate from the manual handling of objects. If you work in any type of care setting, you’ll ultimately come across many different situations in the workplace where you might need to move somebody or handle somebody for various reasons. However, before you attempt to move anyone you need the right people moving and handling training first to make sure you can move people safely and securely with the right equipment and technique.

When might you need to move or handle someone?

There are many reasons why you may need to physically move or handle someone. Some of these reasons include:

  • Helping someone up and out of bed
  • Taking someone to the toilet
  • Bathing or washing someone
  • Helping someone with mobility difficulties
  • Helping carry things for someone
  • Moving objects or furniture for someone
  • Helping someone get into and out of cars, buses etc
  • Carrying food or other objects for someone

With all of these different tasks in mind, it’s important to remember any one of these tasks carried out with insufficient training could cause serious injury to you and your patient. This is why it’s also important to receive the right training on how different types of equipment can help you to carry out these tasks as well.

The risks of moving and handling

Your back is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body when lifting or moving people. Without adopting the right posture and technique, you could be left with serious back injuries that can severely limit your mobility and your ability to look after someone. Other risks can include damaging fragile skin around your arms or hands, shoulder and neck injuries, breathing difficulties or even bruising and cuts around your body. Any one of these injuries can severely impair your ability to look after people with some taking a long time to recover from. This is why it’s so important to mitigate any potential risks to yourself and the patient when physically moving and handling.

Why you need specialised training

Specialised training tailored around different techniques to move and handle people in various situations is extremely beneficial to you and your employer. This is because this training will show you exactly how to manoeuvre people safely, tips and tricks on how to position your body and also the types of equipment you can use to help you with each task. Along with preventing any injury, having the right training also allows you to importantly prioritise promoting the dignity of those in your care. This is also an important factor in moving and handling people and not treating them as objects to move around. Other important benefits of receiving the right training include reducing staff sickness due to long-term injury, a better quality of care for all patients and being able to build more trust and confidence between yourself and your patient.

What to bear in mind when lifting

Before physically moving or lifting someone, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions to determine whether the person requires any aid. This includes things like:

  1. Do they require any help to move?
  2. Do they just require some supervision?
  3. Have I yet told them I’m moving them?
  4. How heavy are they?
  5. Do I feel strong enough today?
  6. Could anyone help me?
  7. How long will it take to move them?
  8. Do I have enough space?
  9. Is anything in the way?
  10. Am I wearing appropriate clothing or footwear?

All of these questions in this checklist will help you to determine whether you’re making the right decision to move somebody. Using this checklist also helps you to supervise someone sufficiently if they are capable of completing some tasks independently.

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Equipment you might need for moving and handling people technique

Another important aspect of learning how to move and handle people appropriately is learning how to use the right equipment for the right task.

There are many different types of moving and handling tools used in care settings. They assist in day-to-day tasks, such as safely getting patients out of bed and helping with dressing.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of equipment you can use to help you:


Hoists are one of the most common and one of the most simple forms of equipment most care settings use to safely manoeuvre their patients. They are most commonly used when attached to a ceiling following a track to help people stand up, lower them into a bath or lower people into a bed. People who are non-weight bearing are more likely to use a hoist to help move them into different rooms.


There are many different variations of slings people can use to help move them. This includes slings to lower people into a bath or onto the toilet. They tend to provide a bit more comfort to whoever uses them and can be easily adjusted for those who have more fragile skin to help transfer them easily.

Slide sheets

Slide sheets help to easily move a patient with much less physical effort required. Their low-friction material helps the patient to slide over the sheet during any manoeuvres, with the sheet being placed underneath them. They can be disposable and reusable and can also be placed permanently underneath the patient.

Transfer boards

Transfer boards are used in a similar way to slide sheets in that they help to move patients from one position to another by placing the board underneath the patient. They can help move someone from a bed to a chair and vice versa or from a seat to a wheelchair and vice versa. Most carers use them along with slide sheets and even sometimes handling belts.

Handling belts

Handling belts are more to help supervise someone who is trying to move around or stand up. It’s the perfect piece of equipment for people who can support some of their weight to help them stand and move. However, they still need that extra bit of help to remain stable. They aren’t used for lifting, more just for extra support.

Turning aids

Turning aids are solely used to turn people around if they need to be placed in a different position. They are also sometimes known as rota stands, turntables or turners for patients.


Wheelchairs are one of the most recognised forms of moving and handling equipment. They are available in a variety of different types and for a variety of different needs. Some are electric, some are manual, some are also able to recline and some are just for manually transporting people from one place to another.

Bed levers

Bed levers don’t technically classify as equipment that helps to move or handle people, but they do ensure the safety of patients while they are in bed. They help to mitigate the risk of falls when lying in bed and can also be used by carers to help reposition the bed.

Electric beds

Electric beds work well for immobile patients or those who mostly depend on the help or supervision of a carer. They have an adjustable height and tailored positioning for the whole body. They can also be used to help assist people from a seating to a standing position and vice versa.

What is a moving and handling policy?

Most health and social care settings require some form of moving and handling policy that helps to ensure the safety of patients and carers. This includes various aspects which include a formal statement on how the care setting mitigates any risks for moving and handling people. This also includes determining who is responsible for ensuring safety and conducting required risk assessments. It involves action planning and providing necessary training for staff members. Additionally, it encompasses equipment maintenance, staff compliance, and reporting any instances of pain or injuries by staff members.

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The legislation to follow: moving and handling techniques

Not only do you have to ensure the safety of patients in a care setting, but there are also pieces of legislation in the UK that you have to follow to be able to move and handle patients. This legislation helps to create risk assessments. The assessments ensure compliance and the safety of everyone involved in the process. Some of this legislation includes:

  1. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  2. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  3. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
  4. Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The risk assessment on Moving and Handling Techniques

To follow these pieces of legislation, a sufficient risk assessment must be in place. All staff members should familiarize themselves with the risk assessment. They should easily follow it, along with the patient’s care plans, to determine the best way to move and handle them. The main steps of a risk assessment include:

1. Identifying any potential hazards

This essentially means identifying any potential risks to any moving and handling activities. This includes any potential harm to patients and staff such as injuries or bad positioning.

You also have to identify how often you need to move and handle patients, what equipment you might use, what environment you move patients in and how you would move and handle patients in an emergency.

You also need to consider who may be harmed during these activities.

2. Evaluating potential risks

Thoroughly evaluating all of these risks and tailoring them to the individual patient’s needs and abilities becomes necessary.

It should also take into consideration changes throughout the day to the patient and determine the number of staff required to move them.

3. Controlling potential risks using moving and handling techniques

Controlling means determining what precautions to use in order to mitigate these risks, such as making decisions on the necessity of moving and handling. This includes putting the appropriate measures in place to control any risks.

4. Recording and reviewing

If there are 5 or more members of staff, it’s a legal requirement to record the risk assessment and to review them regularly. All staff members should familiarize themselves with the risk assessment. They should easily follow it, along with the patient’s care plans, to determine the best way to move and handle them.

Essential moving and handling techniques for safely assisting people

Along with the rest of the advice we’ve provided, here are some of the essential techniques you should learn to safely assist anyone in your care:

1. Use an ergonomic approach

This essentially involves adapting your approach to suit both you and the patient you are looking after. This means using the right equipment tailored to the patient’s care plan and also reducing the potential risk of manually moving someone. You want to not only protect yourself and your capability of moving someone but also to keep the patient stable and secure.

2. Keep your knees relaxed

Keeping your knees relaxed allows you to distribute more even weight across your legs. This helps to keep you more stable when lifting and moving the patient and also helps to prevent any injury to your lower back and legs.

3. Get as close as possible

You ideally want to get as close as possible to the patient. Being closer helps to keep you slightly more stable and also more comfortable while transferring your patient. This technique also helps to keep you more balanced while lifting.

4. Lead with your head

For both the patient and carer, your head should lead your whole body when moving. This helps the movement of the patient when transitioning from seated to standing for example, but also helps the carer guide the patient more easily.

5. Follow the sit-to-stand moving and handling techniques

When you need to get a patient on their feet, the best way to do this is to carry out the sit-to-stand technique. This means communicating clearly with the patient with the right gestures and support to gently lift the patient from behind while also encouraging them to push their body weight. You can also use this technique from lying down to sitting. Never just forcefully pull someone out of their chair or bed.

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