Why Is Manual Handling Training Important?
Manual handling is a process that everyone will likely have to engage in at one point or another in their lives, whether in or outside of work.
Every year, 300,000 individuals in the UK suffer from back pain as a result of manual handling accidents. In fact, it is estimated that one in three accidents that occur in the workplace are a result of manual handling.
Therefore, it’s as important as ever that individuals who will be performing manual handling duties are aware of the appropriate methods required to do so safely. This is why manual handling training is so important for all those taking part in these duties to protect them from potential injuries caused by unsafe manual handling procedures.
In this article, we delve into detail about manual handling, its laws and its risks, and explain the importance of safe manual handling training to prevent avoidable harm from coming to employees in work environments.
Manual handling can be something as simple as moving a box of files and can be a key part of the responsibilities for those working in environments, such as a workshop or construction site. It is not exclusive to any one role or industry.
Manual handling can be described as the supporting, transporting, or transferring of a load by using the human body. Whilst it may seem like a basic task, it’s important that the procedures of safe manual handling are known before individuals engage with it.
Manual handling training is a legal requirement amongst all those in employment who are carrying out manual handling tasks, including lifting, pulling, pushing, or lowering any objects. The purpose of manual handling training is so that these individuals can carry out manual handling in a risk-free manner and so that they are able to perform these duties safely for years to come.
Manual handling practical training material and guidance needs to be offered to workers to ensure that they are aware of the risks involved with manual handling and the ways in which they can act to reduce these risks.
With the skills and knowledge acquired from a manual handling training plan, individuals will be able to safely perform any manual handling tasks that they have and therefore reduce the risk of obtaining an injury caused by this. These injuries can typically occur in the back, neck, or spine and may lead to pain or a temporary inability to function, but they can also lead to permanent injury or death.
Equally, a potential risk of poor manual handling can also be mental health-related problems. Having to live with physical injuries or accidents caused by poor manual handling may contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression. Therefore, manual handling training is crucial to ensure that workers are less likely to suffer from mental or physical illnesses or injuries.
After learning of its importance, you may now be asking, what do you do in manual handling training? There are three key components of manual handling training: raising awareness, reducing risk, and creating safe and practicable manual handling operations.
Manual handling training that is delivered to individuals should be tailored to the type of work that they carry out in order to be more specific and, therefore, effectively reduce the risk of injury. The training itself should cover:
Legislation is in place in order to protect the health and wellbeing of those working in UK workplaces. The UK law that regards manual handling is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (known as MHOR).
The law and regulations require employers to reduce, assess, and avoid the risk of injury to their employees relating to manual handling. The guidance offered by the regulations is also useful for managers and safety representatives in the workplace, as well as employees to understand the efforts that their employers should be making to protect their health.
The MHOR law specifically 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, according to the law, in which employers can make sure that they have a sound policy in place and are staying on the right side of the law for manual handling and its training. These are:
It is an employer’s responsibility to follow these steps in order to protect the health and safety of their employees and abide by current legislation.
There are several risks and consequences associated with improper manual handling, which are important to understand before you take on any moving and handling tasks.
The number one risk of poor manual handling technique is injury. Improper manual handling can have lasting negative impacts, and even one instance of this can cause serious damage to muscles and ligaments.
There are two broad categories of injuries that manual handling can cause: short-term and long-term. Short-term injuries may include sprains, bruises, cuts, or tears in ligaments, which normally heal in a short time period. However, these can be extremely painful and cause undue stress and fatigue to both the individual harmed and their family.
In unfortunate cases, repeated lifting using the wrong muscle groups can cause lasting damage that will give a person long-term health problems. These largely include musculoskeletal disorders, which are caused by long-term strenuous or improper manual handling over time.
Mental injuries that can occur as a result of poor manual handling include mental health disorders like anxiety, depression and long-term stress, which can occur as a result of dealing with long-term manual handling-related injuries.
Many people who injure themselves at work due to poor handling are forced to take time off and are sometimes no longer capable of doing their old job when they return. Only good manual handling practices can prevent this.
This is a risk that not only has implications for the individual affected by unsafe manual handling, but also for the employer, as losing employees can impact the workforce and business in the long run. This is because employees that have to take time off due to injury are often still paid, which means that the business is losing money, and productivity is reduced.
Where a business is found to clearly be at fault for an injury, lawsuits can also follow which 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.
This can have significant effects on a business and its employer in the short term by having to pay thousands to the injured individual, but also in the long term as the business may be under evaluation to see if it is a safe workplace.
On top of these risks is also the issue of workplace morale. Employees are generally much happier when they know that their employer is looking after them, and also more productive, according to research from the University of Oxford.
Proper manual handling procedures will ensure that employees know that you as an employer have their best interests in mind and that you are making efforts and actions to take care of their health and wellbeing.
In line with the above points, there are a number of benefits that employers and employees can experience as a result of delivering and engaging in proper manual handling training.
By delivering proper manual handling training, employees will likely have fewer sick days due to injuries caused by improper techniques. Musculoskeletal conditions and poor mental health were the two highest common causes of long-term absences from the UK in previous years, which are both linked to poor manual handling.
Therefore, delivering appropriate training for manual handling will mean employees will likely have fewer injuries and health problems and will be taking fewer sick days in their roles, therefore.
In line with the above, knowing how to appropriately carry, lift, and move objects will help to protect the well-being of employees long-term. With ageing being correlated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal conditions, knowing how to handle objects now will help prevent manual handling from contributing to these conditions in the future.
Manual handling training can be done internally and 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 a team.
At Virtual College by Netex, we offer a range of online manual handling courses that cover all of the above in more detail, as well as explain exactly how loads can be moved, handled, and lifted safely.
Our ‘Manual Handling in the Workplace’ course, for example, is designed for all who need to lift heavy items as a part of their role. It covers the legislation surrounding manual handling as well as the risks involved and how to best educate staff to protect their health and safety in the workplace.
Manual handling training should be refreshed every 1-2 years. Whilst there is no definitive timeframe required by law to refresh training, it is important to ensure that this is done frequently enough to keep safe practices at the forefront of workers’ minds to protect their health.
The duration of manual handling training itself varies depending on the course being taken by employees. Our ‘Manual Handling in the Workplace’ course, for example, takes 1-2 hours to study. The certification period of a course may also vary depending on the course provider, so this is something to also bear in mind.
According to manual handling laws and regulations, anybody who is carrying out manual handling procedures as part of their daily tasks in employment needs to receive appropriate training for their role.
Some examples of job roles that require manual handling training include:
Employers are responsible for both the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff and, therefore, need to ensure that their employees are undergoing manual handling training courses for their working environments.
Manual handling is required in a range of roles in various job sectors and its training is crucial to preserve and protect the health and safety of individuals who execute it as part of their daily tasks. We hope that this article has offered you the knowledge and understanding that you need as to why manual handling training is so important so as to protect yourself, and others, in the future.
Our variety of manual handling training courses online help to educate individuals on manual handling. For a general and comprehensive training course, you may benefit from our ‘Manual Handling in the Workplace’ course. For a course encompassing not just objects but also people, you may find our ‘Statutory & Mandatory Training: Moving & Handling’ course to be better suited for you or your workforce.