Manual handling is something that most people will encounter in their work lives, whether it’s something as simple as moving a box of files, or it’s a major part of working in a workshop or construction site. We’ve all heard the insistence that everyone must know how to properly lift heavy objects (lift with your knees, not your back), but how important is it really? Is it just common sense or should training be taken to ensure you’re getting it right? Let’s take a look.
The number one risk of poor manual handling technique is of course injury. It’s as simple as that. And far too many people think that lifting or moving something incorrectly may simply result in some soreness for a little while after. The truth is far from that. Even one instance of improper technique can cause serious damage to muscles and ligaments. In extreme cases, repeated lifting using the wrong muscle groups can cause lasting damage that will give a person very long-term health problems, which can have knock-on effects throughout their lives. Many people who injure themselves at work are forced to take time off, and are sometimes no longer capable of doing their old job when they return. Only through good manual handling policy and training can this be prevented.
These risks are of course both for the individual and for the business.
Employees that have to take time off through injury at work often still have to be paid, which means that the business is losing money, and productivity is reduced. In severe situations, sick leave can be for months at a time, especially where minor operations are required to correct the injury. This can have very significant impacts, on small businesses especially.
Where a business is found to clearly be at fault for the injury, lawsuits can also follow, and these can be costly. In situations where a manual handling injury results in loss of potential earnings in the future, sums awarded can run into the thousands.
On top of these tangible risks is also the issue of workplace morale. Employees are generally much happier when they know that their employer is looking after them. Proper manual handling procedures in place will ensure that employees know that you as an employer have their interests in mind.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive is responsible for this area of workplace safety, and more specifically, the UK’s law comes from the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (known as MHOR). This law defines manual handling as the following:
"...any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force".
Beyond the manual handling definition, there are three main ways in which employers can make sure that they have a sound policy in place, and are staying on the right side of the law. They are; avoiding manual handling tasks wherever possible; thoroughly assessing any manual handling tasks that cannot be avoided; and finally, putting in place measures that reduce the risks of manual handling being a danger.
It is an employer’s responsibility to follow these steps and regulations.
Manual handling training can be done internally, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal process, unless employees are dealing with particularly dangerous loads. However, it always helps to ensure that all of the right information is being given to the team. Here at Virtual College, we’re pleased to be able to offer online manual handling courses that cover all of the above in more detail, as well as explaining exactly how loads can be moved, handled and lifted safely. Click here to be taken to the course page.