Manual handling poses a real hazard to staff when at work. Incorrect and unsafe lifting can cause serious injuries. In 2019, the HSE recorded that approximately 120,000 people sustained a manual handling injury. There are ways to limit and reduce the risk of a manual handling injury occurring.
1. Undertake a Manual Handling Risk Assessment
As a business, you should be undertaking a manual handling risk assessment to limit and reduce injury risk as much as possible. Undertaking this risk assessment, will allow the business to identify where they are most at risk and where extra control measures need to be implemented. The benefit of undertaking a manual handling risk assessment is that you will then end up with a list of actions to be undertaken which will cover every angle of the manual handling risks within your business.
Regular monitoring of any control measures should be undertaken, the risk assessment should be communicated to all staff and it should be reviewed yearly or when any changes or injuries occur.
2. Ensure employees have undertaken manual handling training
This is a must for a business who undertakes manual handling tasks. Employees who undertake this training will be aware of the risks involved when lifting and will know how to lift correctly and what measures to take to ensure their safety. Ensure the training course is adequate and inline with the HSE requirements.
3. Use mechanical lifting aids where possible
The possibility of the use of mechanical lifting aids will be identified in your manual handling risk assessment. Using mechanical lifting aids will eliminate the risk of manual handling injuries, which should be the first thing the business tries to do, eliminate the risk completely. An example of a mechanical lifting aid is a Forklift Truck.
4. Plan the lift before undertaking the lift
If employees have undertaken manual handling training, then they will know what to look for when planning the lift beforehand. Questions should be asked such as… Where is the item going exactly? Can mechanical lifting aids be used instead?
Is the lift a safe weight to be done by one individual or are more people required? Is the walkway clear from any slips and trips hazards? Has the individual lifting the item taken the correct stance and is using the correct technique?
5. Wear appropriate clothing for lifting activities
Appropriate clothing should be worn by employees who are undertaking lifting activities. The correct footwear should be worn for example steel toe cap boots, instead of high heels. This reduces the risk of tripping and adds protection to the feet in the event of someone dropping a heavy load onto their feet.
Tight clothing should be worn, to reduce the risk of baggy clothing getting caught on corners etc, which could hinder your movement during the lift causing the item to be dropped or a fall to occur.
6. Know your limits and don’t lift excessive loads
Many injuries during lifting activities arise from strain due to attempting to lift excessive loads. Long term injuries can arise also due to lifting excessive loads. Before attempting to lift the item, access the situation and evaluate if the load is too heavy to be safely lifted by one person.
If it is, there are ways to lift the item safely and in a way that will minimise risk. You can either share the load evenly between more people so that the strain on the one individual is reduced. You can alternatively use mechanical lifting aids such as forklift trucks that will eliminate this risk completely. This method is recommended.
7. Pushing the load is safer than pulling the load
Let’s say you have a really heavy load, you don’t have access to a mechanical lifting aid and even between a few of you, you are still unable to lift the load safely, there is another option. Pushing the load! Pushing the load still poses risks, however there is less strain and less risks than lifting or pulling.
If you are pushing the load as opposed to pulling, there is less strain on the body, and you are able to safely navigate the load to where it needs to go. Pulling the load could also result in major injury if you were to fall over and the load fell on you. If you are going to push the load, the previous tips above still need to be undertaken, such as planning the route etc.
8. Bend your knees! Not your back!
This is very important, if you are lifting items with your back instead of your legs then you will more than likely sustain an injury. By bending your knees and keeping your back straight, you are guiding the pressure from the lift to your legs instead of your back which is a lot more fragile. The correct technique for this will be shown to employees if they undertake a manual handling training course.
9. When lifting and manoeuvring, always keep your head up
When undertaking lifting activities, you should always keep your head up and look ahead instead of looking down at the item. This has obvious benefits in that it allows you to see where you are going and correctly manoeuvre, but it also helps in other areas. Looking up and ahead will keep your spine straight. Keeping your spine straight will reduce the risk of a spinal injury as strain or pressure won’t build up on a certain part of your back.
10. Hug the load and avoid twisting or leaning with the item
The closer you can keep the item to your chest/body will then reduce the amount of stress placed on your back and spine. When moving with the load, you may be tempted to lean and twist in order to move about easily and quickly. However, it is important that you do not do this.
This will put lots of stress on your back and can cause serious injuries. Instead, move around with your feet, whilst keeping the item close to your chest and your back straight.
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