Manual handling and Health and Safety – What you need to know

With manual handling accounting for a third of all workplace injuries, you can see why manual handling and health and safety walk hand in hand. But is it just a case of one-off training or should training and policies around manual handling be reviewed?

From musculoskeletal disorders to arm, leg and back injuries, joint injuries and more, manual handling injuries can be serious, affecting the worker for the rest of their life. That’s why understanding manual handling and removing the risks associated with it are an important strand of health and safety.

What is ‘manual handling’?

Manual handling is when something or someone, such as a patient, needs lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying. These are all activities we do every day at home and at work.

Some items that need moving and lifting etc., are heavy or impossible to move, but there are other things that are light and easy. The problem is, when we do these movements over and over again or do so in a different way, we can be hurt.

How to avoid injuries from manual handling

The cornerstone of health and safety is to recognise hazards, the level of risk they present and to minimise and contain this risk as much as possible. Manual handling is considered to present a significant risk to workers.

Health and safety guidelines on manual handling say that workers should avoid manual handling and only do so when necessary. For this reason, health and safety assessment of manual handling in the workplace needs to consider;

  • Individual capability when it comes to manually lifting or moving equipment or people
  • The nature of the load needs to be considered
  • The environmental conditions must as be assessed

In terms of equipping workers with the right skills where manual handling is unavoidable, workers need to be trained in safe manual handling techniques. In terms of the organisation, there needs to be a supportive atmosphere and an understanding of the risks of manual handling. Workers shouldn’t be expected to complete tasks without the correct equipment either.

Is manual handling training a ‘one-off’?

Like all facets of health and safety, manual handling, the hazard and risks it poses changes as people change, the environment changes, the load changes or different equipment is used.

It’s tempting to think that when we’ve taught someone to lift with ‘their back straight and their knees bent’ that training is complete. But it isn’t. Manual handling training should be reviewed regularly with refresher courses delivered on a regular basis too.

Where possible, you want workers avoiding lifting, moving, pushing or pulling things but when this can’t be avoided, as an employer you are expected to provide the correct equipment. This too needs to be well-maintained and fit for use.

Avoiding accident and injuries

Caring for the health and well-being of their employees is top of the list for forward-thinking modern businesses. With manual handling presenting such a risk, it’s no wonder that it is at the top of the health and safety list.

How can we help you?

If you are in need of assistance with any aspect of Health and Safety management, here at Synergos we’d be delighted to help. Whether you have questions or are looking for advice and support to maintain standards, call 01484 666160 or Email and we’ll be happy to talk it over with you.

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Steve Kilburn
Steve Kilburn
I initially trained as an industrial chemist working in a variety of manufacturing environments eventually moving into quality management which grew to encompass environmental and occupational health and safety management systems. I hold a Masters Degree in Health and Safety law and Environmental Law and a Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Waste Management and I am a Graduate Level Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). In my spare time I enjoy reading, my favourite author is Stephen King, and listening to music, generally from the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
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