Workplace-related injuries from manual handling are a common occurrence. Since the majority of occupations involve manual handling of some form, most employees are at risk of manual handling injuries.
Employers have a duty of care to take steps to ensure that employees can perform their duties without the risk of injury. Let’s look at the most common manual handling injuries and how to ensure you are doing your legal duty to prevent them.
The 10 Most Common Manual Handling Injuries
Manual handling is formally defined as ‘transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force’ by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Almost all jobs involve manual handling in some form.
Workers in healthcare, retail and construction are at high risk of developing manual handling injuries. An average of one out of every three workplace injuries are the result of poor manual handling techniques, according to manual handling injuries statistics gathered by the HSE.
Understanding injuries from manual handling is the first step to preventing them. We’ve compiled the list below of the 10 most common manual handling injuries to help you understand what you need to control for.
1. Back Injuries
Injuries to the back are common and usually occur because of poor manual handling techniques. Incorrectly lifting, moving or setting a heavy object down, puts a great deal of strain on the back. Many back injuries are minor but if not treated they can turn into ongoing health issues.
2. Hand Injuries
Manual handling always involves the use of the hands, so it is not surprising that hand injuries are common. Broken fingers, fractures, cuts, burns, and strains to the hands can happen easily if the right manual handling procedures are not followed.
3. Foot Injuries
If a heavy object is gripped incorrectly, it can slip from the grasp and crush the feet. Bruised and broken feet or toes are often caused by loads being dropped suddenly or by being set down incorrectly.
4. Shoulder Injuries
Even with a good lifting technique, there is still the risk of a shoulder injury. Placing too much weight on your shoulders can cause them to become dislocated. The rotator cuff is located in the shoulder joint and is particularly susceptible to being damaged by incorrect manual handling techniques.
5. Neck Injuries
Neck inquiries can easily occur if you are lifting an object that is too heavy for you to carry. The strain caused by lifting too much weight can tear the ligaments, muscles, and tendons in your neck. This results in stiffness, pain, and a decreased range of movement of the neck.
6. Strains and Sprains
Strains and sprains can occur in any part of the body that is put under undue stress from lifting or moving too much weight. Often felt in the legs, wrists and arms, sprains and strains can be painful and increase a person’s chances of developing a chronic condition.
7. Slips, Trips and Falls
Carrying a large object can impair your vision and increase the likelihood of slipping, tripping, or falling. These types of manual handling injuries can be severe as there is the risk of additional injury being caused by the object falling onto the person carrying it.
8. Lacerations and Cuts
Objects that are made of rough or sharp materials can result in a worker suffering a cut or laceration. Objects with sharp edges or protruding nails must be carried or moved with caution to avoid injury. Gloves should be provided to reduce the likelihood of cuts or lacerations.
Lifting heavy objects can result in the stomach muscles becoming strained. If a person repeatedly strains their stomach muscles, this can cause a hernia. There are various types of hernias including inguinal, femoral, umbilical, and hiatal hernias. All of these conditions are painful and may require surgery.
10. Musculoskeletal Disorders
Known as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs), these are conditions that impact the bones, joints, and muscles. WRMSDs are categorized as either upper limb disorders or lower limb disorders. Unlike sprains or strains or other types of immediate injuries, WRMSDs can take a long time to develop.
Which Age Group Suffers the Most Manual Handling Injuries?
Older workers are at an increased risk of incurring injuries from manual handling. This is partly due to ingrained poor manual handling techniques, but it is also because, as we age, our bodies simply cannot handle as much strain. Managers should carefully assess the age and individual abilities of workers when assigning manual handling tasks.
How to Prevent Manual Handling Injuries in the Workplace
Employers can act to prevent manual handling injuries by following the guidelines set out in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. These regulations require that an employer must ensure that all manual handling tasks are avoided ‘so far as reasonably practicable’. If a manual handling task is unavoidable, then all associated risks must be assessed.
Steps must then be taken to reduce or eliminate these risks. Employers are advised to use the TILE technique when assessing manual handling risks. This involves:
- Assessing the Task itself
- The nature of the Individual who is to complete the task
- The nature of the Load
- Assessing the Environment
Reducing the risks posed by manual handling tasks can include:
- Remove any obstacles in the immediate area
- Ensure there is adequate lighting
- Ensure that the flooring is stable and not slippery
- Use lifting equipment
- Break the load into smaller pieces
- Share the weight between employees
- Use personal protective gear (PPE) such as gloves or steel-capped boots
- Move the load in stages
- Ensure that correct manual handling procedures are followed
The best way for your team to avoid injuries is to provide them with training on how to implement proper manual handling techniques.
Reduce Risk in the Workplace with Manual Handling Training
Moving a heavy or awkward object without the right training can cause severe injuries and chronic medical conditions.
Human Focus offers employers a range of industry-specific Manual Handling Courses. All of these courses can be taken online at your convenience. Successful participants are awarded a certificate that can be downloaded immediately upon completion. Backed up by leading health and safety authorities, the Human Focus Manual Handling Courses will ensure that your team has the skills to perform their duties safely.