Manual handling causes over a third of all workplace injuries. These include work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as pain and injuries to arms, legs and joints, and repetitive strain injuries of various sorts.
The term manual handling covers a wide variety of activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. If any of these tasks are not carried out appropriately, there is a risk of injury.
Why is dealing with manual handling important?
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 labour, 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 health and safety measures in place to prevent and avoid injury.
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 minimise the need to carry out such movements.
- Consider how you can minimise 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 to smaller, lighter components.
Good handling techniques for lifting:
There are some simple things to do before and during the lift / carry:
- Remove obstructions from the route.
- For a long lift, plan to rest the load midway on a table or bench to change grip.
- Keep the load close to the waist. The load should be kept close to the body for as long as possible while lifting.
- Keep the heaviest side of the load next to the body.
- Adopt a stable position and make sure your feet are apart, with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance.
Remember - Think before lifting / handling:
Plan the lift and don’t lift or handle more than can be easily managed. There is a difference between what people can lift and what they can safely lift. If in doubt, seek advice or get help.
For more information on Manual Handling or any HSE issues contact HSE@dmcc.ae.
This article is written by Paul Sumner, DMCC Senior HSE Manager.