Manual handling of patients

In this section

In This Section

Reduce the risk of injury

If not performed safely and correctly, positioning and handling of patients can cause injury to both you and the service user.

The way to reduce incidents is to carry out an assessment that looks at the risks to patients who visit the department, as well as the risks for you and the other staff who work there.

Undertaking a comprehensive risk assessment will reduce accidents, injuries and staff absences, as well as saving money and protecting resources.

Employers have a legal duty to ensure your health and safety and most will have a manual handling policy in place.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) requires employers to:

  • Make a comprehensive assessment of the risk of sustaining an injury at work
  • Reduce this risk to the lowest level it can practicably be
  • Fully train staff to use safe and best practice at all times
  • Provide supervision to ensure staff are complying with safe practice policy in the department.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has produced a useful infographic with step by step instructions on risk assessment and management in the healthcare environment entitled ‘Top Tips for Patient Handling’.

Moving, positioning and handling bariatric patients

Large or obese patients require sensitivity from the radiographer to ensure that they do not feel uncomfortable, psychologically or physically.

One NHS trust in England has a policy which sets out the system by which patients who weigh over 159 kg (25 stone) have their moving and handling needs met when they are admitted to any part of the trust. It describes a process to assess need and the identification of the equipment which make the handling of the patients more comfortable and safer for both staff and patient.

Lone working

The management of manual handling risks for lone workers – a frequent issue for radiographers working out-of-hours – also relies on effective risk assessment. What does a radiographer do if they are working alone and they have a patient who it would be unsafe to position or handle on their own?

The Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group has produced advice jointly with NHS Protect, for staff who have to work on their own. 

There is also guidance for managers about how to improve safety for lone workers. 

The Society of Radiographers (SoR) also has general information on the health & safety of lone workers


While on clinical placement, it will be important for qualified members of staff to make students aware of any manual handling policy that has been adopted by the employer. Students may also need training in safe practice and procedures, to equip them with the skills needed for best practice.

Other resources

Moving and handling in health and social care. 

NHS Employers guidance.

NHS Staff Council lone working guidance for managers

Musculoskeletal disorders - HSE material for health & safety reps

The Society has developed workplace posters to remind staff about the risks of incorrect manual handling and for waiting areas asking patients and carers to let staff know if they have a disability or injury that makes it difficult or uncomfortable to move in a certain way. Download the posters below.