Incorrect manual handling practices are responsible for a third of all workplace injuries in the UK, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Due to this high level of risk, employers have specific legal duties to protect their staff from such injuries.
The Manual handling Operations Regulations 1992 along with other legislation require employers to assess manual handling hazards and properly control them. A failure to comply will result in significant fines.
In this article, we will take a look at what these duties are. We will give a definition of manual handling, look at what the legislation is that’s associated with manual handling, and provide a Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 summary.
What Is The Definition Of Manual Handling?
The HSE defines manual handling as the act of “transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force”. This can include any type of carrying, lifting, lowering, pushing or pulling. If you are moving a load without using a piece of equipment or a machine to assist you, this is classed as manual handling.
A ‘load’ is defined by the HSE as any kind of moveable object or animal. Human beings can also be considered loads.
What Is The Legislation Associated With Manual Handling?
The main manual handling policy in the UK is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. These regulations outline the duties and responsibilities of both employers and employees with regards to safe manual handling. The regulations provide a set of instructions designed to avoid injuries or ill health caused by hazardous manual handling techniques.
Why Are The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 Required?
When performed incorrectly, manual handling duties can cause a range of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include any type of injury or condition that causes pain in the joints, back or limbs.
Almost 470,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related MSDs in the 2020/2021 period, according to figures from the HSE. These conditions amounted to 28 per cent of all reported work-related ill health. 45% of these cases impacted the upper limbs and neck and 39%were due to back injuries. The remainder were MSDs affecting the lower limbs.
Almost every workplace environment imaginable has manual handling risks. Construction workers, factory workers and health workers, for instance, are often required to perform repetitive manual handling tasks and so have a greater risk of developing an MSD.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 were brought into force to provide employers and employees with guidelines on how to safely handle loads, without incurring an injury.
What Is Required Under The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992?
Where possible, an employer must avoid any type of hazardous manual handling situations ‘so far as reasonably practicable’.
If the situation cannot be avoided, an employer must assess the risk and then mitigate or eliminate the risk. It should be noted that there is no weight limit imposed by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Once a risk assessment has been performed, an employer should act to reduce the risks ‘as low as reasonably practicable’.
However, the HSE recommends men should lift no more than 25kg, while women should lift no more than 16kg.
Alternative methods or specialised manual handling machinery or equipment must be provided where necessary. Employers must ensure that all staff have received sufficient manual handling training and are kept informed of all risks associated with their daily tasks.
For their part, employees must ensure they follow safe work practices, use any provided equipment safely and correctly and co-operate with their employer regarding any health and safety issues.
Employees must also inform managers immediately if they become aware of any manual handling risks in the workplace. Employees should make sure that their own actions do not put themselves or other people at risk.
How To Prevent Manual Handling Risks At Work
Preventing manual handling risks entails considering ways to eliminate potentially hazardous situations.
Is it possible to avoid moving a load by completing a task in a different way? If there is no way to avoid moving the load, then the optimum way of moving should be considered.
Can the load be moved using machinery or equipment? If so, employers and managers need to ensure that staff are properly trained in how to correctly use the equipment or machinery.
By carefully considering all options available to them, managers and staff can avoid or mitigate the risks associated with manual handling duties.
The Importance of Manual Handling Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are crucial when dealing with any manual handling situations. Whenever there is a manual handling task that must be completed, a risk assessment should be done to gauge how hazardous the situation is.
All areas of risk should be assessed, including:
- The nature of the task
- The load itself
- The workplace environment
- The capacity of the individual/s involved
- Materials or equipment that is being used
- The frequency, pace, and duration of the tasks
Certain workers may be at higher risk of injury than others. Managers and employers should carefully consider the needs of:
- Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth
- People with disabilities
- New, inexperienced or temporary employees
- Elderly workers
- Homeworkers, lone workers, or home office workers
- Workers that do not have English as a first language
Psychosocial risks must also be taken into account when performing a risk assessment. For example, factors such as deadlines and excessive workloads can result in workers not following correct procedures.
Where To Learn More About The Manual Handling Regulations 1992?
Manual handling tasks are commonplace in the majority of workplaces. To avoid accidents and injuries, correct manual handling procedures should be followed. Adhering to the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 will ensure that all workers use proper manual handling techniques.
Human Focus offers an online course that covers the key information employers and employees need to know about manual handling. Entitled Manual Handling in Industry – What Everyone Needs to Know, this course provides crucial information on how to safely complete manual handling tasks.