The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has developed a range of tools to help with the identification of workplace risks associated with manual handling activities. All of the tools are free and provide useful guidance on making these important assessments.

Whilst it can be very difficult to agree on what might constitute a low, medium or high risk, the guides do give helpful descriptions as to what would represent each of these based on a wide range of issues.

Let’s take a look at the four individual tools.

The MAC tool

The MAC (Manual Handling Assessment Charts) tool has been developed to assess the risks posed by lifting, carrying and lowering manual handling activities. It is designed to help with the understanding, interpretation and categorisation of the levels of risks into low, medium or high using a colour coding and numerical score system. Consequently it can be used as a pre-filter for when a full manual handling risk assessment is required, as well as being a useful tool to assess risk levels during the full assessment.

The tool is split into single person and team handling issues. Having identified the level of risk, a decision can be made as to whether further control measures should be investigated and ergonomic improvements introduced.

The V-MAC tool

The V-Mac tool is designed to be used alongside the MAC tool. This one is specifically for assessing lifting and carrying risks where loads weights vary. Typical scenarios where this tool would prove useful are order picking, parcel sorting and trailer loading and unloading.

In reality, it can be difficult and time consuming to obtain the weights of each item a handler will deal with in any given time period. The V-MAC tool is therefore best used alongside order picking and distribution systems that are able to automatically generate the weights of items. Those weights are then imported into the V-MAC worksheets.

The ART tool

The ART tool is designed to assess the risks associated with repetitive upper limb tasks. This is a particularly useful tool as it looks at repetitive strain issues where non-neutral positions and repetition are key risk factors.

The neutral position for a joint is the mid-range position where the joint is under the least amount of stress. The ART tool allows issues to be identified that would normally fall through a traditional manual handling risk assessment. Traditional assessments tend to focus more on the more obvious issues, such as the load weight and bulk, along with large ranges of movement by the handler in the trunk. Such issues might crop up in production facilities for example.

Once a full assessment has been conducted using the ART tool, the guide also provides a system for interpreting the overall result, along with any need for further action.

The RAPP tool

The RAPP tool concentrates on the movement of loads by pushing and pulling. When you think about pushing and pulling, it is easy to think just about wheeled items. However, not every load will be moved on wheels. The guide is therefore split into wheeled and non-wheeled push-pull activities. Examples would be the dragging of white goods; the sliding of a table or the churning of a barrel (rolling it on the lower rum whilst tilting it at a slight angle).

HSE Tools and our Manual Handling Risk Assessment Course

It is good practice to use the tools, because if the HSE were to be onsite and asking questions about manual handling risk assessments, then it would be much easier to justify decisions made that were based upon HSE guidance.

All of the HSE tools form an integral part of our one-day Manual Handling Risk Assessment course. This course is typically run in-house, allowing us to visit genuine areas of work to allow real-life practice assessments on actual operations.

To discuss any specific requirements, or to book a course, call 07932 674707 or email