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Health and Safety

8 Examples of Illegal Moving and Handling Techniques in Health and Social Care


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Illegal or unsafe moving and handling of patients without using proper techniques or equipment can cause musculoskeletal injuries like back injury and chronic back pain. That is why it is essential for health and social care professionals to be aware of unsafe moving and handling practices, otherwise known as “unsafe manual handling techniques.”

Reading this blog, you can learn about illegal moving and handling techniques, how the techniques can be injurious and why the right techniques are important for handling patients.

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Illustration of a woman helping elderly woman walk while another elderly man sits on a chair

What is Moving and Handling in Health and Social Care?

Moving and handling in health and social care refers to the moving and handling of people, which was previously termed as “manual handling” techniques for carers. According to  The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, “Manual Handling” is the transporting or supporting of a load (including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving) by hand or by bodily force. “Load” in this aspect can be an inanimate object, person or animal.

The act of moving and handling often involves the use of specialist equipment. To avoid injuries whilst promoting independence and quality of life you need this.

Some examples of moving and handling are-

  • Helping a client to get in and out of bed
  • Helping a client to use the toilet
  • Helping with bathing, showering and bed baths
  • Supporting clients to stand, walk or sit down
  • Supporting clients to get up from the floor after a fall
  • Supporting when getting into and out of a vehicle

A senior woman is getting help to stretch by a nurse

What are Illegal Moving and Handling Techniques?

There is no such term as “illegal moving and handling techniques” that have been specifically banned by the UK legislation. However, there are moving and handling techniques that are highly controversial and have been banned in most care environments. These techniques are mostly referred as “Controversial lifts” or “Controversial manual handling techniques” rather than illegal moving and handling techniques.

8 Examples of Illegal Moving and Handling Techniques in Health and Social Care:

A young woman helping an elderly person get up

A list of controversial techniques (lifts) has been provided below that can be categorised as illegal moving and handling techniques.

Australian Lift

An Australian lift is an unsafe move. This lift is commonly used on patients who need help sitting up in their beds. This is a type of shoulder lift that involves two carers, one on each side of the client, who place their shoulders under the patient’s armpit to lift them.

The idea behind the Australian lift manual handling technique was to balance the patient’s weight between two other people. However, this technique is neither safe for the patients nor the carers. Patients should be lifted using a hoist, sliding aid, or other specialised equipment and not by carers’ hands or shoulders.

Doctor helping patient to walk with a walking frame

Drag Lift

The Drag lift manual handling is used to lift someone from the bed, provide support to a standing position or to lift off the floor. This is performed by lifting or supporting a patient under the armpit by use of the carer’s crook of the elbow.

The use of drag lifting is strenuous on the patient’s shoulders, transfer strain to the carer’s back and can create shear forces damaging the skin.

Additionally, the drag lift in care might encourage the patient to be passive since the carer does most of the heavy lifting. This can create a risk for both the carer and the patient.

Orthodox Lift

The orthodox lift involves two carers standing on either side of a patient and forming a cradle with their hands, arms and wrist in order to lift a patient. This lift possesses an immediate risk, and the position puts immense strain on the carer’s  lumbar region.

Bear Hug Lift

The bear hug lift is often used to pull out a patient from a wheelchair to a secondary position. The hug involves leaning forward, squatting down marginally, reaching forward around and under the arms of the patient and lifting them up from the chair.

Again, this is an unsafe technique as it also puts strain on the caregiver when specialised equipment can easily be used to perform the same task.

You can watch the following video to understand the procedure of Australian, Drag, Orthodox and Bear Hug lift.

Combined Lift

In this type of lift, one carer uses a shoulder lift and the other faces the opposite side placing an inner hand under the person’s sacrum. Both carers hold a handling sling that is placed under the person’s thighs. This lift is highly risky and has the same danger as the drag lift.

Nurse helping the old woman walk

Through Arm Lift

This is a technique used to lift a person from a bed to a wheelchair, where two carers face the bottom of the bed sitting behind the patient. The carers put arms behind the patient’s back and under the knees to lift. This lifting is operated at a distance from the carers’ spine, putting pressure on the spine and there is a risk of injury to the carers’ shoulders.

Neck Hold

Neck hold involves patients’ arms around the carer’s neck. This relies on the momentum of the carer to get the patient to a standing position. This is yet another risky technique.

Flip Turn on Bed

In this technique, you or one other carer place both hands under the patient and you move the person close to your body and then roll away in one movement. This is hazardous because the load is taken at a distance from the carer’s body.

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A nurse offering help to an elderly woman to stand up

Why are Right Moving and Handling Techniques so Important?

Now that you have become familiar with the illegal moving and handling techniques, know that unsafe handling techniques can cause injuries in large proportion. On the other hand, safe moving and handling protect you from the pain caused due to the damage to muscles, tendons and bones.

Any unsafe moving and handling can lead to short-term and long-term injuries. Short-term injuries might include cuts, sprains, bruises and small fractures, whereas long-term injuries mostly damage the musculoskeletal system of the body.

Safe moving and handling techniques in care focus on how you are lifting a patient, whether you are close to the patient, how is your posture while lifting and so on. Thus, the proper manual handling techniques are vital because they can significantly reduce the risk of injury.

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Doctor fixing the posture of his patient

Moving and Handling Legislation:

The legislation regarding moving and handling focuses on reducing the risk through the use of risk assessments. This is particularly important in moving and handling since there remains the possibility of high-risk injury to both patients and carers.

The following legislation may be relevant for assessing moving and handling risks:


What are the possible hazards associated with illegal moving and handling techniques?

The key hazard associated with illegal moving and handling techniques is that it can cause a severe muscular-skeletal injury to the patient or the carer or both. Recovery from such an injury might take several months or even years.

What are the benefits of undertaking moving and handling training?

Appropriate moving and handling training ensures the safety of both patients and handlers. Attending training sessions would also benefit the staff and the healthcare to witness fewer accidents and avoid injuries. In addition, the patients can enjoy the quality of care and get encouragement in becoming more independent with their mobility.

Is it a legal requirement to have at least two staff to operate a hoist?

You do not necessarily need two staff to operate a hoist unless it is your organisation’s manual handling policy. The UK workplace legislation does not make it a requirement to always operate a patient hoist with two members of staff.

I need to move clients on a daily basis as a part of my job. Do I need to have moving and handling training?

Under the “Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974”and the “Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 2006,” employers are required to provide their employees with health and safety information and training. People moving and handling has been defined in legislation as ‘hazardous’ therefore, you should undergo moving and handling training to work safely and reduce hazards while moving clients.


Moving and handling patients in a care setting requires proper learning and practical training. Otherwise, lack of knowledge and training can lead to the application of illegal moving and handling techniques on patients. To avoid injuries and ensure the safety of both the patients and health workers, one should have an appropriate understanding of moving and handling techniques.

Consider the Workplace First Aid course if you want to help anyone ill or injured in your workplace. This course would enable you to respond to any workplace first aid emergencies quickly.

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