Incorrect manual handling leads to injuries at work. It can also cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). As such, employers follow the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1992) to protect employees from injury when carrying out manual handling tasks at work.
Manual handling occurs in many different types of workplaces – from building sites, to hospitals, to schools. Heavy lifting, incorrect posture, or existing injuries all contribute to the risk of an MSD. Unfortunately, not all MSDs can be prevented, but they can be spotted early if symptoms are reported.
When considering the risks associated with manual handling, employers should firstly speak to employees to find out what they perceive the risks to be. As far as is possible, hazardous manual handling should be avoided. If it cannot be avoided, the risk of injury should be reduced as much as possible.
In turn, employees should follow work procedures on safe lifting and use equipment correctly. They should also inform the employer if they notice any dangerous lifting activities taking place or if they believe the activities being undertaken put others at risk.
Wherever possible, avoid manual handling. If a heavy object can be left where it is, then do so. If necessary, mechanical aids should be provided to help with lifting. Training is also important as it will empower your employees with the knowledge they need to lift items safely.
Training should cover:
- Manual handling risk factors
- Good techniques for lifting
- Using aids
- Practical application of lifting techniques
Safe Lifting Tips
Before the lift:
- Think before you lift
- Plan how you will lift
- Can you lift alone?
- Where will the load go?
- Remove obstructions
During the lift:
- Adopt a stable stance
- Get a grip
- Slightly bend back, hips and knees (do not stoop or squat)
- Keep the load close to the waist
- Head up, shoulders straight
- Move smoothly
- Put down, and only then adjust
Safe Pushing and Pulling
Before the push/pull:
- Ensure the pathway is clear
- Handling devices should have smooth running wheels.
- The force needed to move an object is 2% of its weight, if moving across a smooth surface
During the push/pull:
- Operators should where possible push rather than pull
- Operators should be able to see the trajectory of their path
- Operators should keep their feet away from the load and maintain a walking speed
- For uneven surfaces, the force required could increase to 10% of the load weight. This would be even higher with a slope.
Following these straightforward procedures should greatly reduce the risk of back injuries or MSDs. By taking simple precautions, nasty accidents can be avoided in most cases. Learning about safe lifting procedures, and of potential hazards, is something that all workers should do. If you have been involved in an accident at work, contacting First Personal Solicitors might help you to find out what your rights are with regards to compensation.