Manual handling injuries can have serious implications for the employer and the person who has been injured. They can occur almost anywhere in the workplace and heavy manual labor, awkward postures, repetitive movements of arms, legs and back or previous/existing injury can increase the risk.
What do I have to do?
To help prevent manual handling injuries in the workplace, you should avoid such tasks as far as possible.
However, where it is not possible to avoid handling a load, employers must look at the risks of that task and put sensible control measures in place to prevent and avoid injury.
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For any lifting activity
- Always take into account:
- Individual capability;
- The nature of the load;
- Environmental conditions;
- Work organisation.
If you need to lift something manually
- Reduce the amount of twisting, stooping and reaching.
- Avoid lifting from floor level or above shoulder height, especially heavy loads.
- Adjust storage areas to minimize the need to carry out such movements.
- Consider how you can minimize carrying distances.
- Assess the weight to be carried and whether the worker can move the load safely or needs any help – maybe the load can be broken down into smaller, lighter components.
If you need to use lifting equipment
- Consider whether you can use a lifting aid, such as a forklift truck, electric or hand-powered hoist, or a conveyor.
- Think about storage as part of the delivery process – maybe heavy items could be delivered directly, or closer, to the storage area.
- Reduce carrying distances where possible.
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A wholesale plant nursery dealt with very large plants and trees in pots. The plants were heavy, bulky and of varied sizes and shapes. Workers had reported severe back strain when handling these plants.
The company sourced a specialized barrow, which was adjustable to allow for moving different-shaped, large plants. The new barrow means just one person (rather than two) is needed to transport plants and workers report there is no longer a back strain issue.