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Your Guide to Health & Safety in Your Furniture Shop

By Maria Hickey on September 21st, 2022

For any furniture shop owner, incorrect manual handling is one of the leading causes of workplace accidents and staff sickness leave in the UK. But what is the first key principle of safe manual handling, and why is it essential that your furniture shop staff learn proper lifting and handling techniques?

This guide will look at the principles of manual handling, the importance of health & safety training for your staff, and why you, as the furniture business owner, need to protect yourself with the right furniture shop insurance coverage.

What Do I Need To Consider When It Comes to Health & Safety In A Furniture Shop?

Considering that during 2019/20, there were 152,000 new cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the UK, it makes sense that you will want to do everything you can to protect your furniture shop staff from lifting and handling injuries.

Poor manual handling can seriously affect the long-term health of your staff. This is why you must understand safe manual handling and safe weight limits and train your staff to know how to safely lift heavy, awkwardly shaped or large pieces of furniture. The first step in manual handling is to know your limits.

Things to consider include:

  • Manual Handling:
    UK Health & Safety laws require businesses to protect the wellbeing of their staff by providing them with appropriate manual handling training and adopting good manual handling techniques. Your staff must also adhere to weight limits to ensure your business remains compliant with safe manual handling procedures set out by UK legislation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • Employee Safety:
    Under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992, you, as the employer, must take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries posed to your staff by manual lifting and handling as much as possible. From a practical point of view, this will mean using safe lifting techniques in the workplace, ensuring heavy pieces of furniture are carefully lifted and moved using a two-man lift, or even more staff members to spread the load.
  • Customer Safety:
    If you run a furniture shop that is open to the public, you must ensure their safety while on your premises. This will involve ensuring your premises floors are clean, dry and free of tripping hazards such as power cables or wet patches from rain or snow being trodden in by your shop visitors.
  • Slips, Trips & Falling Hazards:
    You must reduce the risk of staff and customers slipping or tripping over as much as possible. This means keeping walkways free of obstacles, teaching your team correct lifting and carrying techniques and checking for hazards where their path may be obscured by the objects they are moving.
  • Falling Stock:
    You may have furniture items stacked up on shelves or wall displays. It is essential to ensure that all shelving and wall display racking is securely bolted to the floor or walls to prevent customers from accidentally pulling heavy furniture down.

What Key Factors Relate To Manual Handling Tasks?

The following four factors are known as TILE (or LITE) and are essential to remember when identifying safe lifting and weight limits for your furniture shop’s manual handling activities.

1: The Task: You need to consider the task you are asking your staff to perform. If you are tasking them with loading a delivery lorry with customer orders, expecting them to lift a load every five minutes (12 per hour) that weighs below 15 kg is considered safe. However, if you expect them to lift a load every minute (60 per hour) that weighs above 45 kg, this will be regarded as unacceptable and may present a severe risk of injury.

2: Which Individual/s Is Lifting The Furniture? A 25 kg load being manually handled is considered a safe upper limit for the average man and 16 kg for the average woman. However, you should know your furniture shop staff well enough to understand their physical limits. Ask yourself how much weight can a person carry comfortably? If you think a member of your team will struggle to lift and carry a load by themselves, you should appoint another team member to help them.

3: What Is The Load? Furniture comes in all sorts of sizes, shapes and weights. You need to assess the load for its weight, shape and how easy or difficult it will be to move. You wouldn’t expect a staff member to lift and carry a heavy wardrobe on their own. But it will be perfectly fine for one staff member to lift and carry a single folded futon.

4:The Environment: Your furniture shop may have a proper loading bay to the rear where your staff can safely load and unload lorries to receive or despatch goods. However, many furniture shops have floor-level delivery areas and sometimes steps to navigate into and out of the shop. You will need to conduct a thorough risk assessment of your goods in/out location, plus the shop floor display area and storage facilities. You should create a health & safety policy for your business for your staff to follow when navigating their working environment while moving furniture.

Safe Lifting Weights

Lifting heavy objects at work is a given in the furniture shop business. While there is no maximum weight to lift at work and no set rules about weight limits for manual lifting and handling at work, what you consider to be a safe weight limit will depend on factors such as the type of objects being lifted and carried and the individual capabilities of each staff membe

Things To Consider About The Manual Handling Load:

  • Easily Grasped in Both Hands:
    Can the load be safely picked up with both hands using a comfortable grip?
  • Reasonable Working Conditions:
    Can your staff safely navigate their environment while carrying heavy objects? Are there any tripping hazards, steps or staircases to negotiate?
  • Can Be Held In A Stable Body Position:
    Can the person carrying the load carry the object at knuckle height and close to the body? Can you avoid them having to raise a load above shoulder height when the load is 25 kg or more?
  • Carried No Further Than 10 Metres Without Rest:
    Allowing your staff to place the object down and take a rest will help prevent overstressing joints and exhausting muscles that could lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Does Not Obstruct The View:
    Some items of furniture can be tall, so if it obstructs your staff member’s view while lifting and carrying, you should assign another staff member to assist with the move to share the load and safely guide it into place.
  • Does Not Prevent The Carrier From Moving Normally:
    Some furniture can be odd shapes that are awkward to lift and handle. If a staff member cannot carry the object using a safe and comfortable technique and move normally, then you should provide assistance from team members to take a corner and share the load.
  • Use Tools & Equipment Where Possible:
    Heavy lifting health and safety advice is to use lifting and carrying tools and equipment where possible to reduce the risk of injuries. This can mean using sack trucks and trolleys to move heavy or bulky furniture around your shop and load and unload lorries.

The HSE has created the Manual Handling Assessment Charts (MAC) for duty holders. It will help them understand what factors may need modifying to control high-risk manual handling tasks.

Have The Right Insurance

No matter how stringent you are about following safe manual handling procedures in your furniture shop, it won’t eliminate all accident and injury risks for your staff or customers.

Having the right furniture shop insurance in place to protect you, your staff and your customers is essential if you want your business to survive the expense of recovering from a fire, flood or compensation claim for an accident or injury.

Firstly, as an employer, you will need employer’s liability insurance, as this is required by law. This insurance will cover you should any of your staff become injured or fall ill due to working for you and claims compensation.

Public liability insurance is a must for shop owners with premises open to the public. Your customers are essential for the success of your business, but they will face health & safety risks while on your premises that you need to protect yourself against.

Our team at Brisco Business Insurance can help you find the right furniture shop insurance to meet your needs. You can quickly and easily compare quotes online, or you can have a chat with our friendly team to discuss your requirements in more detail.


As with any retail business, fire, flood, accident and injury prevention is better than cure. Ensuring your staff follow safe lifting and handling guidelines and know to ask for help when needed will go a long way to protect your furniture shop from the risks associated with this industry.

As a furniture shop owner, you will want to protect your staff and customers from workplace accidents and injuries that can impact your ability to work and generate an income. This is why having the right insurance cover in place is also essential. With our help, you can easily compare business insurance quotes and find the policy that meets all of your needs.

Maria Hickey

For more than 20 years, Maria has worked in the insurance sector and has extensive underwriting and customer service expertise. Maria is an experienced Senior Underwriter with a particular specialism for shop, office and surgery related insurance.

All articles by Maria Hickey

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