Manual handling activities are an essential part of many workflows, but they can also be extremely dangerous if they are not managed correctly by everyone involved in the process.
The lifting and carrying of heavy objects can seem straightforward enough on paper, but in reality there are all sorts of things that can go wrong, potentially resulting in serious injury and possible legal consequences, not to mention damage to valuable goods.
This is why any company responsible for manual handling needs to make sure it carries out a thorough risk assessment before any such activity can take place. In doing so, bosses can weigh up all the potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them, ensuring that the whole process can proceed smoothly and safely.
Because the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 specify that it the business owner’s responsibility to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place - and mandate that you do everything you can to reduce the risk of manual handling accidents - injuries related to lifting or carrying heavy loads can also open your business up to potential lawsuits and fines, which can be exorbitant.
In 2017, an engineering firm was fined £20,000 after one of their workers was injured while carrying a heavy steel frame, and while most manual handling accidents don’t result in legal action, it’s always worth taking steps to safeguard your business from similar lawsuits.
Looking for a breakdown of the current legislation? Click here to read our legislation guide.
Manual handling involves lifting, carrying, lowering or otherwise moving a load by hand or bodily force and is known to be the most common cause of accidental injury in the workplace.
One in three accidents at work are caused by manual handling, with around 300,000 people in the UK suffering from back pain due to manual handling accidents each year. Given that 12.3 million working days are lost annually due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders, it should be clear why preventing manual handling accidents is crucially important from both a safety and a financial perspective.
When carrying out a manual handling risk assessment, staff should be considering four main areas: the nature of the task, the capabilities of the individual performing it, the characteristics of the load and the layout of the environment. These four factors can be easily remembered by using the acronym TILE.
Although the solutions to each of these problems will vary from case to case, there are a few basic principles that can help staff to make sure they are handling heavy loads as safely as possible.
These include clearing a path and a setting-down point before the moving begins, bending the knees to lift without curving the back and grasping the object as close to the body as possible. Workers should also be advised to avoid twisting the body as much as possible by turning their feet to position themselves and to make sure that one person is responsible for coordinating collective action when lifting as a team.
Companies should also bear in mind the need to invest in handling aids such as trolleys or wheelbarrows in certain circumstances and to utilise personal protective equipment. Above all else, it's vital to take an ergonomic approach that adapts procedure according to the results of the risk assessment, rather than trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't account for different circumstances.
Summary: When managing manual handling activities in the workplace, it is essential that managers remember the key principles that will allow them to effectively assess and deal with any risks that might arise.