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Last updated: 07.11.18

What is manual handling in care?

When most people think of manual handling, they will think of picking up heavy boxes or equipment – the kind you might find in an office or warehouse. However, manual handling covers quite a lot more than that, and one of the industries in which it is most important is the care industry. This includes people like caregivers in retirement homes, nursery staff, and even healthcare workers in hospitals. The biggest difference between your typical manual handling best practices and those involved in a care setting, is that you may well be moving people as well as objects, and if you’re moving people, then you must consider their safety as well as your own. Let’s take a further look.

What the law says

Moving and handling is an important health and safety consideration, which is why it comes under the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, the government department responsible for issuing rules and guidelines surrounding workplace safety. Any kind of moving and lifting can come under this, including everything from moving heavy baskets of laundry, to helping residents move into the shower, or out of bed. There are five suggested pieces of legislation that the HSE recommends should be read if you’re unsure about the legal specifics of moving and handling:

● Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

● Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

● Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

● Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

● Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998

Risks of poor manual handling

Manual handling is still a subject of workplace policy because it’s still a major problem in UK workplaces. Many people still see it as unnecessary bureaucracy instead of an important procedure. There are a number of risks involved.

The first is of course injury to the manual handler. Moving a person means moving a heavy object, and it’s not difficult to hurt oneself through over-exertion. This can result in significant discomfort for a number of days, but it can also result in long-term health problems. Repetitive incorrect manual handling can damage muscle and ligaments, which can mean extended time off work, and even forced early retirement.

It’s also easy to see how bad techniques can hurt the people that you’re working with. In a care environment, employees may need to help people who have little or no ability to move on their own. This can range from giving support while working, or using hoists to move patients in and out of bathing areas. Without the correct technique, falls can occur, or people can be otherwise hurt.

In manual handling tasks that do not require the moving of a person, there is of course the risk of dropping or otherwise damaging what you’re carrying.

Manual handling in practice

The specifics of how you should approach various moving and handling tasks should be detailed in any training that you take on the subject. However, there are a broad number of steps involved in any good manual handling policy. Understanding these will help anyone approach manual handling in an effective manner.

Assessing the risks

The first step in approaching any manual handling task, whether in care or otherwise, is to establish what the risks might be. By moving a person, is there a risk that you might hurt yourself, or that the person could be hurt? Might there also be a lack of respect for their dignity?

Avoiding risk

Once the risks are understood, they should be avoided if at all possible. In an office of instance, this might mean avoiding the carrying of a heavy box entirely. Instead, individual files from the box might be moved. In care, it’s less likely to be able to avoid manual handling entirely, so the process will be more about reducing risk.

Mitigating risk

There are many different things that can be done to move heavy objects and people more safely. Proper technique is hugely important, which means lifting or moving in the right way, and with the right muscles. Having a second person helping you is often very important too. And finally, the right equipment must be used; for example, many care homes will have lifting hoists and other equipment that makes moving people much easier, safer, and more dignified.

Reviewing the procedure

Lastly, and more importantly, for those responsible for manual handling policies, is reviewing the manual handling techniques. Do the current processes allow jobs to be carried out safely?

Further information

Training is essential for safe moving and handling, which is why most care organisations will have mandatory certifications. At Virtual College, we’re pleased to be able to offer an online course specifically covering the most important points of moving and handling both objects and people. Click here to be taken to the course page. Alternatively, if you need general manual handling training, our broad workplace-focused course can be found here.