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.
Statistics published by the HSE identified that there were 409,000 workers suffering with musculo-skeletal disorders in 2018 and that they had resulted in 6.6 million lost days.
According to the Labour Force Survey, manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard work or repetitive action are estimated to be the main causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
In order to prevent manual handling injuries in the workplace, you should 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.
There are four key elements to consider when carrying out your risk assessment, they are:
The combination of all four elements are crucial to determining the likely impact and deciding upon the control measures you will need to adopt.
One critical element often overlooked or underestimated is the importance of training.
In 2018, the HSE issued a press release regarding the dangers of buying off the shelf manual handling training.
Whilst training clearly has a role to play in reducing the risk of injury and the long-term health problems associated with manual handling, poor training can actually exacerbate the problems.
The HSE were taking the opportunity to raise this issue as they launched a new page on their website setting out how a holistic approach needs to be implemented.
As always, the first step is to assess and prioritise your risks; this doesn’t however mean rushing off to a computer to fill in a form. Instead you should be taking a look at what is being done by whom, where, when and how.
By working with those employees undertaking the tasks you will get a far better understanding of where the risks are and, in many cases, will garner positive suggestions for improving processes and layout. These in turn will reduce the risk of harm and may improve productivity.
Having considered all of these changes and the utilisation of mechanical aides it is then time to ensure that your workforce is adequately trained to use the equipment provided, the best possible lifting techniques and ultimately how to reduce the risk of long-term harm to themselves.