Posted on August 14, 2013

manual-handlingManual handling relates to the moving of items either by lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling. Pulling something may not be the case when it comes to the injuries, you can cause an injury by lifting, carrying or pushing an item.

These injuries can be a result of, the amount of times you lift or carry an item, the distance you are carrying it, the height you are picking the item up from or putting it down i.e ground level and above shoulder height. Any awkward positioning whilst carrying out these tasks such as twisting, bending and stretching may cause injury also.

Manual handling injuries are the most common kind of injuries covering over a third of all workplace injuries. These injuries include Musculoskelatal Disorder (MSDs) such as upper and lower limb pain/disorders, joint and repetitive strain injuries.

These injuries can occur almost anywhere in the workplace. Heavy manual labour, awkward postures and previous or existing injury can increase the risk. Manual handling injuries that is work related can have serious implications for the both the person dealing with the injury and their employer. Employers need to bear in mind the substantial costs e.g. lost production, sickness absence, retraining costs, wages/overtime to cover for the absent person and potentially some compensation payments. The person who is injured may find that they are not able to do their job which may have an impact on their lifestyle, leisure activities, ability to sleep and future job prospects.

6 FAQs about Manual Handling

What can be done to help prevent manual handling injuries?

Risk assessments is the main thing that you should be doing to help prevent manual handling injuries however there are other things to consider. Does the load need to be moved at all? If it does, can it be moved mechanically? You can use a handling aid such as a pallet truck, an electric or hand-powered hoist or a conveyor.

If manual lifting is the only option then there are a number of things that can be done to reduce the risk, including:

– Making the load smaller of lighter and easier to lift
– Breaking up large consignments into more manageable loads
– Modifying the workstation to reduce carrying distances, twisting movements or the lifting of items from floor level or from above shoulder height
– Improving the environment – e.g. better lighting, flooring or air temperature can sometimes make manual handling easier and safer
– Ensuring the person doing the lifting has been trained to lift as safely as possible

Are there any recommended weight limits for manual lifting?

The law does not state any maximum weight limit for manual lifting. It is the responsibility of the employer(s) to manage and control these risks, plus the measures that will need to be taken to meet this duty will vary depending on the circumstances of the task. The aspects to consider include the individual doing the handling operation, e.g. strength, fitness, underlying medical conditions, the weight to be lifted and distance to be carried, the nature of the load or the postures to be adopted or the availability of equipment to facilitate the lift.

What is the correct lifting technique?

There is no correct way to lift an item. Depending on the items size and weight, tells you the technique you need to use. An example would be, it is easier to pick up something that is boxed up and has handles than something that is awkwardly shaped or where the weight is uneven. The structure of any training in good handling techniques should be suited to the particular situation or individual circumstances under which the manual handling would take place.

Is there such a thing as a ‘no lifting’ policy?

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 does not prohibit individual types of manual handling or endorse ‘no lifting’ policies. Manual handling should be restricted to those times when it cannot be avoided and only where a risk assessment has been done and risks have been minimised. Employers are irresponsible if they pass on the risk to employees and a balanced approach to the risk is advocated to ensure that workers are not required to person tasks that put them at an unreasonable risk.

Are there any tools that will help me make a risk assessment?

The HSE have produced a series tools that help employers/employees deal with a risk assessments. The MAC tool is used for most manual handling roles. The ART tool is for assessing repetitive movements and the Push Pull guidance which deals with moving items other than by lifting.

What is the law on manual handling to protect employees?

Employers have a legal obligation under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to employees from manually handling loads. This is a legal requirement and the regulations must be followed. The regulations set out a series of measures that should be complied with to reduce the risks from manual handling. These are set out in the regulation 4 and are as follows:

– Avoid manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable
– Assess the risk in any manual handling operations that cannot be avoided
– Reduce the risk of injury so far as reasonably practicable

For more information on Manual Handling, please see the HSE website.