Let’s be real, chances are if you have had any job in the past 20 years you have probably had some form of manual handling training, borrrrrrringggg? Right? Sure you may have learnt something in this field before, but as someone who has been on the receiving end of a back injury I’ll be the first in line to tell anyone, this stuff is VERY important. Even the slightest injury from improper lifting technique or using the wrong equipment can not only be debilitating for you in your work environment, it can greatly affect your home and social life also.
Manual Handling and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s)
Unsafe manual handling practises are the main causes of MSD’s. There are several factors when determining what constitutes manual handling, picking up a box or moving a barrel is obviously included however there are many more things included that you may not even consider:
- Operating Machinery
- Prolonged exposure to vibrations
- Manual lifting of unstable, heavy, or difficult to hold objects
- Awkward posture in handling goods
- Repetitive movements
- Manual Handling tasks that require the application of high force
There can be many other tasks that can injure you, this is just a generalised list.
I mentioned earlier that I have been on the receiving end of one of these injuries and let me tell you, they are not fun. I was at times unable to move at all when getting out of bed, it was only a minor back strain and I could barely move at times. This highlights the importance of proper lifting technique: I cannot stress this enough. When you are preparing to lift something, make sure you size up the object you are about to lift, if it is able to be lifted by one person without the assistance of another, or using an assisted lifting device then proceed. The most important thing when you are lifting anything, no matter the weight is to always bend from the knee when you are reaching down to pick something up, bend from the knee while keeping your back straight. Simply making sure to do this when lifting anything at all will greatly prevent your risk of straining your back.
Eliminating workplace hazards
The best way to improve manual handing in a workplace is to promote awareness, everyone in the workplace needs to know about your safe handling practices etc. This does not just apply to the people on the ground, there may be cases where upper management isn’t aware of issues on the floor so communication definitely needs to go both ways.
- Safety Briefs: Briefs can be very boring, however when it comes to safety they can be very necessary. It is a good practice to have a regular safety brief and openly communicate about changes that can and need to be made.
- Hire an expert: hiring an Occupational Inspector is a massive step, they will come and visit the workplace and determine the level of risk faced by the employees. If you are a manager or owner of a company you should definitely invest in this. They will help you identify issues and you can bring them to your safety briefs and make safety upgrades as a whole.
- Incident Reports: incedent reports are a great learning tool, any injury is obviously terrible but the silver lining is that you can learn from that mistake and do everything possible to ensure it will never happen again.
Using Equipment to help your manual handling
This may seem obvious, but if the object you are trying to lift is too heavy, too awkward to carry or if you are just unsure in any way make sure you stop. Every workplace has the equipment to help with manual handling (and if they don’t you should look into getting some). This manual handling equipment can help you in almost any scenario:
Trolleys: A trolley can make any lifting job a breeze if you need assistance getting the item onto the trolley make sure to do so.
Roller Conveyors: These devices allow you to move both light and heavy items safely and quickly through high traffic areas. You can get them in rigid or flexible style.
Aluminium Order Picking Ladders: You need support and stability when picking up items from high shelves.
Safety should be the top concern of any workplace, making sure your workers get home safely to their families is paramount. Hopefully reading this article has given you a few things to think about when it comes to manual handling!