Get A Grip On Manual Handling
BA (Hons), MSc.
Associate Member CIEHF
The array of hazards associated with manual handling and poor manual handling techniques has both human costs and financial costs to your business. Most of these hazards can be eliminated or minimised through best practice.
of all reportable injuries at work are caused by manual handling
Source: Non-fatal injuries to employees as reported by employers, 2016/17 HSE
Manual handling injuries
Most manual handling injuries at work occur in obvious locations such as in warehouses and stockrooms. However, everyday tasks performed in any office such as stretching, leaning, stooping or twisting can lead to injuries, the most common of which are musculoskeletal.
What are musculoskeletal injuries?
Musculoskeletal injuries are those involving muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and other soft tissues. The back, shoulders and neck are particularly vulnerable.
Sometimes a sharp pain indicates injury, for instance when a ligament is torn. However, injury can also occur over a long period of time and in this case, damage can go unnoticed until significant harm is done. These injuries are often referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI. Some examples of these are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis, and Bursitis.
Working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2017/18
Source: Labour Force Survey (LFS)
Each person suffering from injury loses an average of 11 working days. Hence, the impact on productivity is vast. In addition, many injuries go unreported but these too can eventually impact on health, well-being and fitness for work.
Manual Handling Legislation
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992 were introduced to help reduce the number of injuries occurring. Both employers and employees have responsibilities under these regulations.
Who is responsible?
Both the employer and the employee have some responsibility for ensuring lifting and moving tasks can be done safely. Like in other h&s legislation, the primary responsibility falls on the employer. It is incumbent on the employer to take appropriate steps in order to reduce the risk of injury. Remember
“as far as is reasonably practicable”
is key to any workable solution to risk management.
The Health and Safety Executive recommends a comprehensive approach to managing manual handling and its associated risks. The approach follows three steps:
Firstly, are there ways to avoid the need for manual handling and therefore reduce the risk of injury? Can some tasks be avoided altogether by using a different system of work such as a conveyor belt or a trolley?
Where manual handling tasks are unavoidable, employers have a duty to comply with the risk assessment requirements set out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 as well as the requirement in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations to carry out a risk assessment on manual handling tasks.
Once a risk assessment has been completed, the employer is responsible for taking steps to reduce that risk as far as possible.
Manual Handling Risk Assessment
A suitable and sufficient risk assessment is required when you cannot avoid a manual handling task and there is a risk of injury. A risk assessment will help you decide on suitable procedures to minimise any risk. The acronyms TILE or TILEO can be a useful tool for risk assessing manual handling tasks.
Does the manual handling task involve pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying? Are you standing or seated? Consider rest periods and team handling.
Consider the suitability of the person carrying out the manual handling task. Are they old, inexperienced or pregnant? If so, is there is a more suitable person to carry out the task?
Consider the size, shape and weight of the load. Are there any handles to grip? Is the load stable? Any sharp edges?
Is there enough room to move? Are there uneven or slippery floors, or steps to consider?
For instance, do you need to use PPE?
Find out more about TILE here
Manual Handling Training
Injuries from incorrect manual handling or manual lifting can largely be avoided if you are properly trained.
Is manual handling training mandatory?
In order to comply with the law, employers have a legal obligation to provide relevant training for employees if they are at risk of injury.
The least costly solution is often online training. However, for manual handling awareness, classroom training is often preferred. When you train in a classroom with a real-live trainer you have the opportunity to ask questions and practise techniques under the observation of the trainer who can identify and correct poor technique.
A good manual handling course, as outlined by the HSE, should cover the following:
- Risks associated with manual handling and commonly occurring injuries.
- How to carry out safe manual handling using bending, lifting, pushing and pulling, team lifting.
- Safe systems of work.
- Using mechanical aids and, if relevant, PPE.
- A practical session under the observation of the trainer.
Of course, risk assessment and training have further benefits than compliance with legislation. Investing time in the well-being of your staff is known to improve efficiency, productivity and staff morale. Investing in your staff is an investment in your company.