Manual handling causes over a third of all workplace injuries. These include work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and repetitive strain injuries of various sorts.The term manual handling covers a wide variety of activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. If any of these tasks are not carried out appropriately there is a risk of injury.
Why is correct manual handling important?
Manual handling injuries can have serious implications for the employer and the person who has been injured. They can occur almost anywhere in the workplace and heavy manual labour, awkward postures, repetitive movements of arms, legs and back or previous/existing injury can increase the risk.
Please click on the link below to see the HSE Annual Statistics on musculoskeletal disorders.
What do I have to do as an Employer?
The Manual Handling Regulations 1992 make it very clear that employers must mitigate risks of manual handling activities. In my experience as a health & safety professional, regular training of employees greatly reduce the likelihood of injuries.
To help prevent manual handling injuries in the workplace, you should also avoid such tasks as far as possible. However, where it is not possible to avoid handling a load, employers must look at the risks of that task and put sensible health and safety measures in place to prevent and avoid injury.
Tips for assessing manual handling in the workplace
When carrying out manual handling activities, always take into account:
- Individual capability – How much can the person safely lift? We are all different shapes and sizes. We must also take into account, age and any disabilities the person may have.
- The nature of the load – Loads are all kinds of shapes and sizes, why not break down the load before attempting to move it? Alternatively, why not ask your supplier to package the load in a way that is in smaller, more manageable sizes?
- Environmental conditions – Some environmental conditions cannot be helped such as weather when working outside, but you can apply controls which will reduce manual handling such as using lifting aids.
- Training – Training is the single most important part of understanding safe manual handling. There are a number of online based courses which are easy and informative on safe manual handling.
Please click here is you would like to learn more on manual handling E-learning training
If you need to lift something manually?
- Reduce the amount of twisting, stooping and reaching – Why not design your workplace to eliminate this?
- Avoid lifting from floor level or above shoulder height, especially heavy loads – Again, arrange storage to eliminate employees having to lift from the floor or lift a load above head height?
- Consider how you can minimise carrying distances – Can lifting aids be used such as pallet trucks, trolleys, electric conveyors or hoists?
- Consider the packaging and grip – Can you supplier make the load easier to carry such as handles? Can the removal of packaging make it easier to handle the load?
Let’s reduce the risk of injury
There are some simple things to do before and during a manual handling activity:
- Remove obstructions from the route – Often a build up of office or warehouse supplies hinder walking routes. It is very important to clear walkways and areas where manual handling is being undertaken.
- For a long lift, plan to rest the load midway on a table or bench to change grip – If you have not been lucky enough to engineer out the long lifts why don’t you have raised areas along the route to have rest breaks or re-adjust your grip?
- Keep the load close to the waist – Aim to keep the load close to the body for as long as possible while lifting. The further the load is away from the body, the greater strain this will have on you.
- Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the body – Again, the closer the load is to your body, the less strain
this will impose on your muscles and back.
- Always adopt a stable position – By making sure your feet are apart, with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance, you will have a solid base to commence with a lift.
In summary, manual handling injuries are avoidable. With the correct training, information and instruction, employees will understand the principle of safe manual handling. If organisations are reluctant to invest in health & safety training, then it is inevitable that an injury will occur.