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How to Avoid Manual Handling Injuries in Care Homes

Care home manual handling

Recent statistics published by HSE provided concerning insights into injuries and illnesses in the health and social care sector, especially in relation to moving and handling. Some of the statistics are as follows:

  • 13% of the UK workforce are in the health and social care sectors
  • Of 195,000 workers who suffered from work-related ill health, 30% of the illnesses were down to musculoskeletal disorders. 
  • Of 71,000 non-fatal injuries suffered to workers, 24% were lifting and handling injuries, which was a higher percent compared to other industries.

In response to these high percentages, we want to emphasise the importance of manual handling training and the development of safe working practices, with a specific focus on residential care homes.

What manual handling injuries can occur in residential care homes?

Residential care homes are a breeding ground for manual handling injuries as moving and handling tasks are such a central part of the day. With tasks such as moving equipment, laundry or assisting residents with moves, it is no surprise that they occur. Common injuries are:

  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Muscle pulls and strains
  • Trapped nerves
  • Hernias
  • Work-related upper limb disorders
  • Back problems
These injuries all vary in the level of pain, how long they take to appear and how long they take to heal. They can be extremely debilitating and can result in large amounts of time off work.

What can you do to avoid them?

The most effective ways to avoid manual handling injuries are by using appropriate equipment and providing effective training.

There are many pieces of equipment which are necessary for manual handling tasks in care homes. As is stated on HSE.gov.uk, this equipment could include:

  • “a selection of hoists – eg hoists to raise fallen individuals from the floor, standing hoists, mobile hoists etc
  • bath hoists or bath lifts and/or adjustable height baths
  • a sufficient number of slings of different types and sizes
  • transfer boards used to assist in moving from and to different furniture (eg. seat to wheelchair)
  • electric profiling beds – for dependent/immobile residents wheelchairs

For a full list, please visit HSE.gov.uk.

But as is always the case, it is not just enough to have the equipment. It is also essential to have the appropriate training – not just about how to use the equipment, but about manual handling in general. It is also essential that equipment is regularly checked and tested to ensure it is still fit for purpose – if they aren’t, they can also cause injuries. This is so important that there is are different legislation and regulations which must be adhered to. These are explored below in more detail.

Training covers important information such as:

  • risk assessment procedures, such as TILE
  • safe working practices, such as the SMART approach, which suggests questions to consider before you start a move to ensure you plan, prepare and communicate appropriately
  • information about the spine and back injuries
  • legislation and their responsibilities

By gaining this knowledge and insight, staff will gain more confidence to carry out manual handling duties.

Roles and responsibilities

So, whose responsibility is it to ensure that safe manual handling practices are followed? It is down to both the employers and the employees. They each have different responsibilities though, which are set by various pieces of legislation.

Employees

Overall, an employee must follow the training and systems that are in place; take care to ensure that any actions do not put themselves or others at risk, and, if there are any problems, have to inform their employers.

Employers

On the other hand, the employers must ensure the health and safety and welfare of their employees. This includes making sure that training and appropriate equipment is in place. To assess this, they can follow this rule of thumb:

They have to AVOID any need for manual handling as much as possible. Therefore, ensuring there is no unnecessary manual handling being carried out.

They then have to ASSESS the risk of injury from any manual handling operations that cannot be reasonably avoided. This is assessed through risk assessments.

Finally, they then have to REDUCE the risk from unavoidable manual handling as much as possible. This is where the appropriate training, equipment and safe working practices come into place.

What legislation is relevant?

The overarching piece of legislation is the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974, which is then supported by the following four pieces:

  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (amended 2002)
  • The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Each one puts responsibilities on both the employer and the employees to ensure that safe practices are adopted and followed. Read our legislation guide to find out more.

Do you recognise any of the injuries in your staff? Are you confident that you have appropriate training and systems in place that will prioritise their health and safety?  It may be that you can benefit from our training course, or if you would like to talk to one of our learning development consultants, who are always happy to advise, you can contact us on (01943) 605 976.

 

Related Resource

How to avoid manual handling injuries in Care Homes

Download our poster to remember the 'SMART' approach when lifting items in care homes to help keep you safe.

 

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