Tips for Safe Manual Handling in the Workplace

Did you know that manual handling is the cause of more than 30% of injuries in the workplace? These injuries include repetitive strain injuries, pain in joints, legs and arms as well as musculoskeletal disorders. More than one third of injuries which result in the employee being off work for more than three days are caused by accidents related to manual handling. Do your employees often lift and carry heavy objects such as food supplies, casks, bottle crates or rubbish bags? These tasks might simply be seen as part of the daily duties of the job, but if they are performed incorrectly they can result in injury. Many injuries are the result of employees following poor practices that put unnecessary strain on their arms, backs and shoulders when lifting. Manual handling covers a number of different tasks including lifting, pushing, pulling, lowering and carrying. Whenever these tasks are not carried out according to health and safety procedures, the risk of injury is present. If you are an employer, you are responsible for making sure that preventative measures are in place that will help to protect your employees from injuries. A serious manual handling injury can result in severe pain or even long term impairment – so this is something very important to consider.

Tips for Safe Manual Handling

How can you make sure that your employees are following safe manual lifting practices while in the workplace? It is important to make sure that your employees have the correct manual handling training in a classroom or manual handling e-learning that is relevant to their position. Also, a manual handling risk assessment should be carried out in order to determine the potential risks involved in the daily work environment and how best to counteract those risks. Here are a few more tips for safe manual handling in the workplace:
  • First of all, take the time to assess whether there is a possibility of avoiding the need for manual handling. If the task can be done with mechanical lifting equipment instead, this can be safer for your employees. Of course, mechanical lifting aids will bring with them their own health and safety considerations, so these should also be addressed.
  • Let your employees know that they should only lift loads that are within their capacity. If an object is too heavy they don’t have to lift it alone, they should ask for help. There is no legal maximum or minimum weight that an employee can lift, it depends on their own personal fitness and capability.
  • When lifting something together as a team, employees should designate one person to give directions to avoid confusion.
  • Employees should be instructed on the safest way to lift, with knees back and back straight – using the thighs to lift the weight.
  • Remember that manual handling also includes pushing and pulling, so these tasks should be assessed as well.
  • All packages and boxes should be labelled with their weight and information about what is inside.
  • Before employees lift a large object, they should have a plan in mind and should plan out their route before they carry out the lift. All paths should be clear of obstacles and visible.
  • It is also good practice for employees to enlist a spotter while they are lifting heavy objects.
  • Remember that bending or twisting while carrying heavy objects is dangerous, as it could throw the employee off balance and injure their spine.
Manual handling injuries can be serious, so it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to lifting heavy equipment. If your organisation has very specific manual handling requirements, contact us to find out about the professional manual handling risk assessment services that we have to offer.

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