2Lift / Ergonomics / France

Manual Handling Risk Assessment Tools and Regulations for Lifting, Pushing and Pulling in France

Are you a French employer on the lookout for national manual handling risk assessment tools and regulations? If you are, then hopefully this page can help you.

Here we will present in a hopefully easy-to-digest manner the material we have found in our research efforts to disclose the French ergonomic guidelines for lifting, carrying pushing and pulling.

On this page you will find:

  • A brief introduction to the relevant parties in the safety and health system in France.
  • A quick presentation of the manual handling regulations as they are presented in the French Labour Code and the French norm NF X35-109.
  • Recommended threshold values for lifting, pushing and pulling.
  • Links to simple manual handling risk assessment tools for carrying out your risk analysis at your workplace.

The Authorities and Organizations Responsible for Manual Handling Risk Assessment in France

In France there are many different parties that have a role to play in the system for occupational health and safety.

First of all, we have the Ministry of Labour (Ministère du Travail) which is basically responsible for drawing up all the policy work. The Ministry of Labour cooperates with various social partners through the Steering Committee on Working Conditions (Conseil d’orientation sur les conditions de travail (COCT)) in the strategic development of national health policies.

COCT also participates in the coordination of various parties who help realize the policy goals, and it plays an advisory role in the creation of documents that contribute to the enforcement of the occupational safety and health policies.

Other than this, France has a wide range of collaborative and supportive parties (social security bodies and scientific bodies) who contribute in various ways to the work of occupational risk prevention.

Many of the ergonomic guidelines for lifting, pushing and pulling and manual handling risk assessment tools that we will link out to from this page are created by such social and scientific bodies.

Legislations and Norms Concerning Manual Handling in France
– The French Labour Code and the French Norm NF X35-109

In France there are two different sets of rules (perhaps now even a third) that set the agenda for the threshold values (recommended weight limits) for manual handling.

One set of rules is fairly ‘laid-back’ when it comes to threshold values, the other set, a lot more strict. Most guidelines tend to follow the stricter version in their recommendations.

The French Labour Code, Article R4541-9

When it comes to the legislation governing occupational health and safety in France, the main item to look at is the French Labour Code (Code du Travail). And as one of the few countries in the EU, France has actually incorporated maximum threshold values for manual handling into their legislation (see Article R4541-9 in the Labour Code).  The values in the Labour Code are fairly high, relatively speaking (we’ll dive into this in a little bit).

The French Norm AFNOR NF X35-109

Aside from the Labour Code there is also a French Norm NF X35-109 that one can follow,
Ergonomie – Manutention manuelle de charge pour soulever, déplacer et pousser/tirer – Méthodologie d’analyse et valeurs seuils. This norm is a lot more strict when it comes to weight limits, and establishes the threshold values quite a lot lower than the Labour Code.

CEN Standard

Apparently though France is changing its current guidelines so that it will refer to the CEN standards from the European Norm (EN) 1005 series instead of X35-109. However, we don’t have any more information on this issue, and all the guidelines that we’ve found so far, refer to either the Labour Code or NF X35-109 or both, so on this page we will stick to this.

Ergonomic Guidelines for the Manual Handling of Loads in the France

Just like what is the case in most other European countries, in France the main principles guiding the manual handling regulations are of a preventive nature in terms of working towards risk reduction.

Thus the first thing to strive towards is to eliminate the need for manual handling altogether.

If that is not possible, then the employer must perform a manual handling risk assessment of the potentially problematic lifting, pushing or pulling operation, and if it turns out to constitute a health risk, then the employer must take appropriate organizational measures or uses appropriate means (in particular in terms of mechanical equipment), to reduce the risk.

Furthermore, the employer is obliged to inform the workers about the characteristics of the load as well as all the risks associated with the manual handling task. The workers must receive sufficient training so the manual handling operation can be carried out securely and comfortably. (reference)

If manual handling cannot be avoided, there exist well-established guidelines as to how heavy a load person is allowed to lift at work.

Weight Limits for Manual Handling in France

Here are the weight limit values one person is allowed to manually handle according to the French Labour Code.

Weight Limits According to the French Labour Code

Manual weight lifting limits at work according to the French Labour Code (Code du travail).

In the Labour Code, weight limit distinctions are based age and sex:

  • Men, 16-17 years: 20 kg
  • Men, from 18 years: 55 kg
  • Women, 16-17 years: 10 kg
  • Women, from 18 years: 25 kg

Furthermore, if manual handling is unavoidable and mechanical aids cannot be used, a worker may not transport loads weighing more than 55 kg, unless he has specifically been declared fit to do so by a medical practitioner. No loads may surpass 105 kg, though.

Also hand truck / wheelbarrow transport is not allowed for staff under 18 years and for pregnant women (for women hand truck / wheelbarrow transport is limited to 40 kg, this is including the hand truck / wheelbarrow) (reference).

Weight Limits According to the AFNOR Norm NF X35-109

Manual handling risk assessment in France: Manual weight lifting limits and threshold values for pushing and pulling according to the AFNOR Norm X35-109.

As already mentioned, the French AFNOR Norm NF X35-109 is a lot more restrictive than the Labour Code.

The first edition of the norm had a different weight limit for men and women. Men were allowed to lift 25 kg and women 15.

Now with new edition from 2011, there is no differentiation based on gender, but other restriction are now in place instead (for references, see here or here):

  • The maximum acceptable value for lifting is now 15 kg per operation. Overall a maximum of 7.5 tons is allowed per day per person
  • The maximum acceptable value for pushing and pulling is 200 kg

The “maximum acceptable value” applies when manual handling operations cannot be avoided.

However under certain conditions “when mechanical means of transport and lifting aids are difficult to install, due to constraints in the environment” [own translation] a person is allowed to lift, push and pull a heaver load:

  • The maximum value allowed for lifting (only under certain conditions) is now 25 (before that value was 105 kg.). Overall a maximum of 12 tons is allowed per day per person.
  • The maximum acceptable value for pushing and pulling is 400 kg

Manual Handling Risk Assessment Tools for Employers

If you want to carry out a manual handling risk assessment at your workplace, there are a few relatively easy risk analysis tools that you can use.

The Quick and Easy Manual Handling Risk Assessment Sheet for Lifting or Pushing and Pulling

The easiest risk assessment tool for manual handling is probably the one you’ll find in the guide La prévention des risques liés aux manutentions manuelles et mécaniques. S’organiser et apprendre à bien porter pour mieux se porter. (The prevention of risks related to manual and mechanical handling. Organize and learn to carry properly in order to feel better (sorry, the clever French pun is lost in translation)) made by the The National Center for Scientific Research (le Centre national de la recherche scientifique).

In this ergonomic guideline to manual handling you’ll find a risk assessment sheet to print out in the appendices. This risk assessment sheet is fairly simple and straight forward to fill out. At the end of filling it out, you receive a score, which places the manual handling task somewhere on a risk continuum from low to high risk. If the score indicates that it’s a high risk operation the worker is performing, then corrective actions are required.

A More Extensive Ergonomic Manual Handling Risk Assessment Tool

Another risk assessment tool can be found here on the website of the French National Research and Safety Institute for the Prevention of Occupational Accidents and Diseases INRS (Institut national de recherche et de sécurité).

The document is called Méthode d’analyse de la charge physique de travail, loosely translated as Method of analysis of the physical workload.

This document is somewhat ‘heavier’ than the other one, and not as quick to scan through for a busy employer. However, it’s still a fairly easy read, so if you want to be thorough and want the whole picture, this document might be an ideal choice. The values in this document are based on the norm NF X35-10.

Online Links for Manual Handling Risk Assessment in France

Online links on manual handling risk assessment tools and manual handling regulations in France.

Information Disclaimer

We have done our very best to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented on this page. However, we cannot guarantee the correctness of any information (regulations change from time to time, responsibilities change hands, etc.). Thus we cannot accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information provided here.

If, however, you are aware of any outdated or incorrect information on this page, you are very welcome to contact us, so we can bring our page up to date.

Other Pages on Manual Handling Regulations

Country Specific Pages with Ergonomic Guidelines and Risk Assessment Tools

Go to Ergonomics for an overview of rules and regulations worldwide.

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