Manual handling injuries are the main work activity to cause back disorders and are one of the three most frequent causes of workplace injury. It is the responsibility of the employer or manger to ensure that all staff are protected against manual handling injuries. The 1992 MHOR (Manual Handling Operations Regulations) explain clearly the definition of manual handling:
“… any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force“.
Under the MHOR an employer has responsibility to:
- “Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable.”
- “Assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.”
- “Reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonable practicable.”
In order to meet these regulations, it is important to first understand the causes of manual handling injuries so we’ve listed the top 10 below:
Lack of risk assessment for manual handling tasks
Regular risk assessment has to be the bedrock of any safety planning for manual handling tasks. Infrequent or inadequate risk assessment can lead to incorrect provision of mechanical aids, lack of understanding and ultimately preventable injuries.
Lack of manual handling training
The lack of manual handling training is often cited in injury compensation cases. Even within a system of excellent risk assessment and careful planning, if the employees concerned don’t have the understanding of risk and the expertise to use lifting techniques and aids, injuries are more likely to occur.
Lack of systems planning
The careful planning of systems for the loading and unloading of stock can go a long way towards mitigating the manual handling risks involved. Insufficient access and poor housekeeping, i.e. the maintenance and cleanliness of workspaces, can contribute to injuries.
Unavailability of mechanical handling aids
Injuries when manual handling can occur if the correct mechanical handling aids (for example a counterbalance or forklift truck, sack truck or hand pallet truck) are unavailable for an important job. It is understandably tempting in these situations for employees to carry out the task without aids or with the wrong ones but this should be actively discouraged.
The presence of an existing injury
Manual handling injuries are more likely to occur in employees who have an existing injury of a related nature. Whilst employees have a responsibility to report existing health problems, it would also be recommended that supervisors be trained to spot these issues before they cause further injury.
The failure to break loads down into components
The first question that should be asked when faced with a heavy load is, ‘Does the load really need to be moved?’ After this it is important to consider the option of breaking the load down into smaller constituent parts as doing so can be an easy step towards avoiding manual handling injuries.
Lack of planning for unusual, heavy or awkward loads
Loads that are unusual in shape, weight or packaging can be classed as unwieldy and are difficult to handle using normal, planned systems. Modified planning should be undertaken and agreed with staff before such loads arrive on site.
Increased worker fatigue
Employees who are over-tired are more likely to be affected by injuries when manual handling. Fatigue factors include: poor load layout, longer shifts or over frequent deliveries, avoidance of these should be built into risk planning.
Lack of communication over delivery at client sites
No matter how strict manual handling arrangements are at the home site, it is harder to control issues such as lack of appropriately distanced parking at a client site. The writing of agreed delivery parameters can alleviate these risks but not necessarily eliminate them. Employees should be given instructions on how to handle external site delivery issues.
Lack of opportunity for dynamic movement
If a worker is not given suitable opportunity for free or dynamic movement the risk of manual handling injuries is increased. Jobs that involve long shifts of seated activity would be included in this.
By far the best way to ensure the successful mitigation of manual handling risks in the workplace is to provide regular training to managers, supervisors and staff. The emphasis for this aspect of health and safety is very much on employer responsibility. Workplace manual handling injury is the cause of 33% of work related injuries and far too many missed work hours each year. Failure to deal with these issues may result in unfortunate litigation.
At Advanced Forklift Training we offer a comprehensive range of both manual handling and forklift safety training courses. We have packages at instructor, manager and workforce level and are happy to discuss your requirements with you. Please contact us today for more information.