Manual Handling

09 July 2019

From construction sites to the common office, accidents and injuries are unfortunately unavoidable factors.

As an employer, you have a legal and moral duty to protect your staff from ill-health and accidents during work.

One standard health and safety procedure used is manual handling. Through sufficient risk assessment and procedures, you can ensure all staff-members work to the safest standards.

If you neglect these practices, accident and injury claims could lead to compensation penalties, business closure, and even imprisonment.

In this guide, we'll look at what manual handling is, UK laws on workplace safety, and how to manage employees using these practices at work.

What is manual handling?

Manual handling is the work practice of transporting, moving, and replacing a load from one place to another. A load can be inanimate (like an object or stock) or animate (like livestock or humans).

Most manual handling jobs require them to be done by human hand or bodily force, rather than by machines. That's why health & safety compliance needs to be carried out.

Following the right manual handling operations allows staff to work in the safest and most comfortable conditions. Neglecting these practices means they are at a severe risk of ill-health, injury, and sickness.

What are examples of manual handling activities?

It's important to ensure staff are aware of how to perform their tasks in the safest way possible. Some of the most common manual handling activities include:

  • Lifting.
  • Putting down.
  • Pushing.
  • Pulling.
  • Carrying.
  • Transporting.

Work areas that often use manual handling include factories, construction sites, and care facilities (like nursing homes and hospitals).

What are common health risks associated with manual handling?

The biggest consequence from poor manual handling techniques falls onto the employee. Manual handling activities often affect employee wellbeing, as well as business functionality.

Common health risks associated with manual handling injuries listed include:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD): This includes pains to the limbs, muscles, and bones in and around all areas of the body.
  • Sprains: This is when ligaments become twisted at a joint.
  • Cuts and abrasions: These are caused through rough, sharp edges found on objects.
  • Strains or pulled muscles: This injury occurs when muscle fibers rip or are damaged.
  • Prolapsed discs: This is when the cartilage of a spinal disc ruptures.
  • Hernia: This is when a rip or bruise occurs in the lower abdomen, which is usually caused by excessive strain on the muscles.
  • Crushed limbs: This happens when loads fall and trap limbs.

Most accidents at work are superficial, but major injuries can lead to permanent damage, pain, and disfiguration.

What are UK laws on manual handling?

When it comes to workplace safety, there are several manual handling regulations you need to comply with.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 2002 (MHOR) outlines legal standards needed to minimise workplace injuries.

The act states employers need to:

  • Avoid the need for hazardous manual handling operations, as much as you reasonably can.
  • Assess the risk of injury from manual handling jobs which cannot be avoided or done through machines.
  • Reduce the risk of injury from manual handling tasks, as much as you reasonably can.

Neglecting health and safety standards during manual handling

If employers fail to manage dangerous manual handling operations, they could face a number of consequences. To name a few, you could face paying compensation penalties, meeting business closure, and even the possibility of imprisonment.

That's why it's so important to adhere to the legal requirements for manual handling. There is no such thing as a small problem when it comes to health and safety. What may seem like a minute issue can lead to drastic outcomes, for your staff and the business.

For example, employees often bang their heads whilst shelving boxes in a warehouse. The shelving space is very short for the average height of an adult.

These accidents might seem small in isolated matters. But because they are a recurring issue and affect numerous people, it needs to be addressed. Neglecting this could result in permanent injury and being left unfit to work. This not only leads to a reduction in staff, but you can also face accident and injury claims through tribunal courts.

What is a manual handling risk assessment?

A manual handling risk assessment is a health & safety checklist used to identify risks in tasks done by humans and not machines.

Through the results of your risk assessments, you can create safety standards, provide relevant training, and advocate working practices for all your employees.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are legally responsible for the safety and welfare of all people found within their business. Manual handling regulations include workers, clients, and non-employees (like customers or the general public).

By promoting safety management through risk assessments and policies, you're on the way to minimise accidents and injuries overall.

Do you need to report manual handling risk assessment findings?

Yes, you do need to report your manual handling risk assessment findings to the correct authorities when required.

All serious injuries need to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These health and safety professionals are a government body who regulate safe working standards.

You must comply with both manual handling operations regulations and HSE safety guidelines. For example, the HSE states you should conduct manual handling risk assessments, “every time there are new machines, substances and procedures, which could lead to new hazards".

If you employ more than five people, you need to document all findings in a written form. This makes it easier to refer to risks and spot any repeating patterns.

How to manage manual handling in the workplace

There are several steps to consider when it comes to safe work practices. But all of them revolve around identifying manual handling hazards and eliminating them for good.

Remember, safe manual handling activities must consider the load, the tasks, the environment, and the worker.

Here are ways to manage manual handling in the workplace:

Plan the move

The first step you should take is to plan the move for a manual handling task. By planning ahead, you can control measures for the whole job-resulting in successful completion. Consider the following:

  • What does the load contain?
  • What is classed as safe lifting techniques?
  • Does the task need to be done by human effort? Or can it be done through mechanical aids?

Reduce the risks

Next, you should adhere to your manual handling risk assessment. They can provide more information on control measures for tasks which need to comply with health and safety standards.

For example, your risk assessments might provide results which show personal protective equipment (PPE) are insufficient. This means more staff are at risk of injury and are working in poor standards.

Map out the working environment

Make sure all staff are conducting manual handling jobs in a suitable working environment. This means ensuring the distance between the load and their destinations are reasonable.

Map out their routes or directions and make sure there are no obstructions during these paths.

For example, an employee needs to carry a load from one corner of a workplace to the other. Doing this by hand, over a number of hours per day, can become strenuous and cause injuries. Instead, reassign the destination of the loads to suit both productivity as well as task management.

Provide proper training

It's so important to provide proper manual handling training to all staff conducting such tasks.

Jobs might seem easy and straightforward. But one slip-up can result in workers suffering from numerous injuries. Some of the most common ones revolve musculoskeletal disorders to limbs, bones, and skin.

Make sure all staff-members are fully trained in picking up, carrying, and placing heavy loads in the safest manner. That way, you can both advocate good handling technique.

Know your limits

Not all employees will be able to perform a manual handling task in the same manner. Some might have sufficient physical strength to conduct carrying tasks. Others might easily avoid crouching or awkward postures for certain height-restricting jobs.

It's so important for you and your staff to know their limits. If an employee is physically unable to perform a task safely, you can provide lifting equipment or handling aids.

For example, the MHOR states there is no maximum weight limit for manual handling. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outline guidance on suitable weight limits based on the average fit male and female.

Comply with legal regulations

In some shape or form, most businesses will perform tasks which involve manual handling. In the end, by complying with legal regulations, you can promote safe working standards across all business areas.

Ensure all staff understand the importance of health and safety during work–applying manual handling training knowledge every day. They should also keep awareness for potential risks linked to poor manual handling techniques.

Get expert advice on manual handling with Peninsula

When it comes to health and safety, you need to comply with the most effective and lawful standards.

A manual lifting activity easily comes with all kinds of hazards and risk. So, build a working environment which promotes the importance of safety at work.

If you neglect this, you could end up with more than injured staff. In some cases, you may need to attend tribunal hearings–where you could face paying expensive fees or business damages.

Peninsula offers expert advice on manual handling at work. Our 24/7 health & safety advice is available 365 days a year; with multi-lingual support and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free chat with one of our HR consultants. For further information, call 0800 028 2420.

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