The Scottish Manual Handling Passport Scheme

The Scottish Manual Handling Passport Scheme (SMHPS) is an initiative designed to improve the standard and consistency of manual handling training / education and the systems (process/procedures) that underpin it within Health Boards and Local Authorities (LA) in Scotland.


1.1 Essentials

For the control of manual handling (MH) risks to be effective, certain essential elements should be in place. These are summarised as follows:

  • Management commitment and support for the organisation's MH strategy and service delivery, communicated and followed through at all levels
  • Effective MH management arrangements which comply with current legislation and guidance and promote evidence based practice and employee health
  • Allocation of sufficient resources by the organisation to implement, develop and deliver the MH strategy
  • Competent individuals identified to undertake key MH roles
  • Systems to assess the risks and identify control measures, including education
  • Systems to identify learning needs of employees including a suitable and sufficient education programme to address needs identified
  • Systems to audit, monitor and review MH incidents and practices
  • Consideration of an individual's ability to perform MH activities / operations safely, supported by:
  • adequate provision of Occupational Health support / advice
  • adequate advice to managers about the capability of individuals with pre-existing musculoskeletal disorders to undertake MH activities safely
  • acknowledgement by employees of the need to report restrictions which may impact on their ability to practise / undertake MH activities safely eg pregnancy, back problems, etc.

1.2 Policy Framework

Arrangements should be in place, which set out the organisation's commitment to reducing and managing the risks from MH activities. These should include strategic and operational responsibilities and management arrangements, as well as information on the risk assessment process, training, provision / maintenance of equipment, monitoring, review and employee reporting.

Organisations can either document these arrangements as a discrete MH policy or procedure, or as a suite of documents eg risk assessments, protocols, etc which link directly into the organisation's overarching health and safety policy. Whichever approach is taken, the objective should be the same and should allow for effective management of all hazardous handling activities carried out.

Further policies / protocols may be developed for services / departments which set out local and operational detail. The same framework may be applied.

Guidance on developing a MH policy framework is contained in Section 3B.

1.3 Competencies for Manual Handling roles

Those involved in implementing MH strategy, or delivering MH services at organisational and / or local levels, need to be competent to perform their prescribed roles. How these roles are assigned will depend on the organisation and the people concerned. Section 3B identifies key functions, roles, competency criteria and evidence.

Where a particular qualification is required to meet the needs of a service area, then this should be met through the job specification for that particular post. The National Back Exchange (NBE)[5] have person specifications that can be referenced for this purpose.

1.4 Foundation Education and Training - Organisation and Implementation

People at all levels in the organisation, undertaking MH activities, need to be educated in MH, appropriate to their roles.

For new employees, an induction record should be completed prior to commencement of MH activities. This should help to identify previous MH training and determine additional input required prior to employees undertaking higher risk handling activities. During the initial induction period a MH checklist should be completed to record the employee's awareness of relevant local arrangements. Figure 1 summarises this. Further details are contained in Appendix 8.

Figure 1. Passport process for new employees

Figure 1. Passport process for new employees

Trainees must be sufficiently supervised. For practical sessions, ideally a ratio of 6 trainees (max of 8) to 1 trainer for people handling and 8 trainees (max 10) to 1 trainer for inanimate load handling is recommended[6]. Consideration of these ratios should take into account:

  • The baseline knowledge and experience of the trainee(s) / trainer
  • The layout of the training venue (should be fit for purpose)
  • The equipment available to facilitate practical training
  • The complexity and nature of the MH activities to be practised.

All modules of the SMHPS should be delivered in an appropriate and suitably equipped environment.

For existing employees, ongoing monitoring and review is necessary to determine any continuing education needs (Section 2.8).

1.5 Training - Planning and Recording

Arrangements for training should include/consider:

  • Manual handling theory (eg Module A) to provide underpinning knowledge (ideally completed before other modules)
  • Length of training - sufficient time to encourage and develop a change in knowledge, attitude, behaviour and skills and to practise (not just observe demonstrations) and develop practical skills under close supervision
  • A process to ascertain trainees' fitness to participate in practical elements, prior to the start of training
  • Feedback to management where trainees have experienced difficulty participating in any part of the training session including where trainees fail to attend
  • Attendance Records to record all trainees' attendance, signed by trainer and all trainees (Appendix 2)
  • A Record of Training to record the key topics / manoeuvres covered during the training session (Appendix 3)
  • Feedback and evaluation of training, in accordance with participating organisations' management arrangements (Appendix 5)
  • Arrangements for retention of records of training in line with organisational policies for document storage and retention.

1.6 External training providers

Where participating organisations commission training from an external training provider, this should meet the requirements of the SMHPS. The expectations of the commissioning organisation and provider should be clearly stated at contract stage and through ongoing monitoring processes.

1.7 Monitoring and support

The organisation should have systems in place to ensure practice and post training activities are monitored in the workplace to enable unsafe practice to be corrected. There should be a support network within or available to the organisation, whereby managers and employees can access support to supplement / consolidate training previously provided to enable employees to undertake safe practice.

1.8 Audit and Review

Adequate arrangements should be in place to audit and review the effectiveness of an organisation's MH arrangements, including implementing the SMHPS. An audit tool to demonstrate compliance with SMHPS requirements is provided at Section 3A.



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