What is the Maximum Weight You Can Lift at Work?

Reading time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, August 10, 2021

Manual handling is part of lots of jobs. From construction to retail, workers will always need to lift and carry items – and these will often be heavy.

The heavier a load, the riskier it is to lift it. That’s why there are recommended limits on the weights you can safely lift at work.

There are different limits, depending on different factors. So the maximum weight you should lift at work before you risk an accident will vary.

Limits for men and women

In a work environment, recommended maximum lifting weights are different for men and women. The maximum weight a man should lift is higher than the maximum a woman should lift.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a man shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 25kg, while the safe lifting weight for a woman is no heavier than 16kg. But the HSE has explained that these are broad guidelines, rather than safe limits for lifting. It added that lifting weights under these amounts results in a low risk of injury.

These amounts are also the highest recommended weights for men and women. There are different recommended limits depending on how high you are lifting the load.

For example, it’s advised that a man doesn’t lift anything heavier than 10kg at shoulder height, while a woman shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 7kg at this height.

But you’ll also need to bear in mind that these limits are for loads being held close to the body. At the same height further away from the body, a man should limit a load to 5kg, while a woman shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 3kg.

When sitting down, men shouldn’t handle anything heavier than 5kg, while the recommended limit for women is 3kg.

The tables below show the differences in the maximum weights men and women should be carrying at work.

Recommended Limits for Women

 

Load Held Close to the Body

Load Held Further Away

Head Height

7kg

3kg

Shoulder Height

13kg

7kg

Elbow Height

16kg

10kg

Knuckle Height

13kg

7kg

Mid-Lower Leg Height

7kg

3kg

 

Recommended Limits for Men

 

Load Held Close to the Body

Load Held Further Away

Head Height

10kg

5kg

Shoulder Height

20kg

10kg

Elbow Height

25kg

15kg

Knuckle Height

20kg

10kg

Mid-Lower Leg Height

10kg

5kg

 

Refusing to lift heavy objects

Your employer is responsible for your safety, so they are required to ensure that you are not lifting anything too heavy. If the load you were lifting was too heavy and that caused you to injure yourself, your employer could be liable.

This may lead you to wonder whether you can refuse to lift heavy objects at work.

If you have a valid reason for refusing to lift a heavy load – such as you haven’t been trained in manual handling or your employer hasn’t carried out a risk assessment – you should raise your concerns. There may be another way of getting the task done.

But if your employer has done everything they’re required to, you may not be able to refuse to lift something without risking employment problems.

Manual handling injuries

Manual handling injuries are one of the biggest causes of musculoskeletal disorders in workers, particularly back pain according to the HSE. Your employer must consider the risks of any work involving lifting or carrying and whether you or your colleagues may be more at risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder.

These workers could be pregnant women or new mothers, older workers, people with disabilities, new or inexperienced workers or people who have recently returned to work after a manual handling injury.

If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of heavy lifting in the workplace, you could be able to take legal action against your employer by making a compensation claim.

But if this is an intimidating thought, it could reassure you to know that it’s not your employer who would directly pay any compensation – it’s their insurer. All employers are required to have these insurance policies in place for exactly this kind of incident.

Your employer is not allowed to sack you for making a claim against them. If they do, they could risk further legal action – this time in the form of an unfair dismissal claim. You’re entitled to be safe at work. When you’re not, you could be entitled to act.

To find out how First4Lawyers could help you make an accident at work claim, just get in touch. You can give us a call, request a call back or start your claim online.

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