There are 1.7 million people in the UK suffering from work-related illnesses. About half a million UK workers have a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. There were also 142 fatal injuries to workers.
These statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are staggering - especially when you consider that injury at work is easily preventable.
Manual handling injuries form part of a broader group of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), including injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back. People who work in agriculture, construction, transportation and storage, and those who work in health or social work are most likely to suffer.
Health and Safety training reduces injuries and lost workdays and improves employee motivation and general compliance.
Tips to ensure safer lifting & handling
1. Assess what needs to be done
Employees should always consider the weights and distances involved, the heights from where a load needs picking up or setting down, and the frequency of the activity. Never lift more than what you can manage safely.
2. Decide what can be lifted safely
Employees will need to make a measured call on what they can safely lift based on their capability, the nature of the load, environmental conditions and training.
3. Identify ways of reducing the risk
Employees should ask themselves if the item needs lifting at all. Perhaps the employee could complete the task somewhere else to avoid lifting the item over a distance. Or there may be lifting aids to help them complete the task mechanically. Perhaps someone else could help too.
4. Re-arrange the task
Where possible, it's always worth checking whether the task can be re-designed to avoid lifting altogether. If this isn't possible, consider re-arranging the task to minimise the risk. Employees may be able to push instead of pull or break up the distance with more rest points.
5. Assess the nature of the load
Can the load be broken up into smaller items to make it lighter? Can it be made more stable or easier to grasp? Should circular or irregular-shaped items be packed into boxes instead to prevent rolling?
6. Assess the work environment
Employees should walk the route first and clear any obstructions. Check the walkway - are there uneven surfaces, gradients or blind corners? Avoid steps, ramps, twists and turns. Consider whether the lighting needs to be improved and what personal protective equipment to use.
7. Plan how employees will do the tasks in advance
Planning and collaboration can help to minimise the risk. Before starting, employees should decide exactly what needs to be done and how. It might help to have someone walking in front or behind to warn others and watch out for hazards. Plans need to be communicated to others, including colleagues who work in the vicinity. Pinpoint the optimum time for lifting - perhaps when the area is quieter.
8. Use safe lifting techniques
Safe lifting techniques include adopting a stable position and good posture, keeping the load as close to the body as possible, using the legs and feet (not back), keeping the head up, not twisting, and lifting smoothly.
It's a good idea to make your training content relevant to the specific employee's job role, for example, by using real work-related scenarios specific to your company. These scenarios will help keep staff engaged and help to embed the right behaviours and practices.
A good Health and Safety training programme should start with manual handling. But it should also cover a diverse range of areas. Depending on the individual employee's role, training may cover everything from manual handling to managing work-related stress and dealing with violence and aggression.
The more you can make the training content relevant to the employee's specific job role, the more likely they will sustain the behaviour and apply what they have learned. It's all too easy for employees to see training as a 'tick box exercise' and forget what they are told. With this in mind, it's also important to have checklists visible to all staff to serve as a reminder.
Want to learn more about Health & Safety?
To help you plan and execute compliance in your organisation, we have created a comprehensive health and safety roadmap.
We also have 80+ free compliance training aids, including assessments, best practice guides, checklists, desk aids, eBooks, games, posters, training presentations and even e-learning modules!
If you'd like to stay up to date with health and safety best practices, industry insights and key trends across regulatory compliance, digital learning, EdTech and RegTech news, subscribe to the Skillcast Compliance Bulletin.
Last but not least, you can interact in person with thought leaders and your peers at one of our popular live webinars and face-to-face events.
If you've any questions or concerns about compliance or e-learning, please get in touch.
We're happy to help!