Manual Handling Tasks: What You Must Do to Reduce Risks

Manual Handling Tasks

As a business owner, you’re responsible for workplace safety. You have a duty to make every task safe, including manual handling. However, statistics show that manual handling tasks are a leading cause of workplace injuries, suggesting they’re often performed without proper technique or safety measures in place.

Neglecting manual handling safety this way puts your employees at risk and exposes your business to significant liabilities. This blog outlines how to reduce manual handling injury risks. By following these guidelines, you can protect your staff, ensure compliance with regulations and maintain a safer, more productive work environment.

Manual Handling Tasks

Manual handling involves moving items by hand or bodily force. These tasks include lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing and pulling objects. Common examples of manual handling tasks include:

  • Lifting boxes and equipment
  • Moving supplies or stock
  • Carrying tools and materials
  • Pushing trolleys or carts

Despite their routine nature, these tasks can pose significant risks when done improperly.

In fact, manual handling is often risky because of its routine nature. Because manual handling tasks are commonplace (and typically repetitive), they’re often performed without care or attention.

Why Proper Manual Handling Matters

Manual handling injuries are common. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), close to a fifth (17%) of all non-fatal injuries are caused by handling, lifting or carrying. Only slips, trips or falls on the same level are more of an issue, causing 32% of injuries.

And manual handling injuries are not only widespread but also long-lasting. The HSE has this data on workplace accidents because it must be notified of certain injuries under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

RIDDOR applies to ‘specified’ injuries, which are typically severe, such as a broken bone or loss of consciousness. If an employee suffers one of these injuries, their employer must notify the HSE.

Employers must also report injuries that result in an absence of seven days or more.

HSE data reveals that four times as many manual handling injuries were reported because they resulted in a seven-day absence compared with a specified injury. This shows that these injuries might not be life-threatening but are often life-changing. Affected workers need a long time to recover, sometimes facing chronic pain or permanent weakness.

Outside of the human cost, employers face excessive compensation and insurance fees, as well as significant drops in productivity and the expense of replacing staff.

In the following sections, we’ll explain what you can do to prevent these injuries.

Why Proper Manual Handling Matters

Making Manual Handling Tasks Safe

Manual handling tasks must comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR).

MHOR applies when your general work risk assessment has identified manual handling risks. It sets out what you must do as an employer to prevent manual handling injuries:

  1. Avoid manual handling whenever possible.
  2. Assess risks.
  3. Reduce risks.

Manual Handling Training

Our Manual Handling Training course educates users on safe manual handling principles and techniques to reduce the risk of injuries to a reasonably practicable level. Users learn how to perform manual handling tasks safely and in compliance with health and safety regulations.

Avoid Manual Handling

Employers are expected to avoid manual handling tasks whenever possible. This means finding ways to eliminate the need for employees to move items by hand. You have two options for this: redesigning tasks or using equipment.

  • Redesigning tasks might involve arranging to have goods delivered straight to where they’re needed. Or moving workers to the items, not the other way around.
  • Using equipment means automating or mechanising tasks. This can be complex (robotics or production lines, for example) or simple (chutes or lift trucks). If you do provide equipment, you must train workers on its use and ensure it’s well maintained.

The law recognises that avoiding manual handling tasks isn’t always possible. You only need to eliminate manual handling as far as reasonably practicable. Reasonably practicable means the cost and difficulty of avoiding the task matches the risk it removes.

In other words, you don’t need to spend thousands installing a production line when workers are capable of handling loads safely with the necessary training and controls in place.

Assess Injury Risks

Essential manual handling tasks must be risk assessed. A manual handling risk assessment is an examination of the:

  • task;
  • load;
  • worker (or workers); and
  • the work environment.

More complex lifts involve more risk factors, so they require more detailed assessments. You can use the HSE’s simple risk filters (published in their manual handling guidance) to sort low-risk tasks from those that need a more extensive assessment.

Record your risk assessment and share it with your workers. They need to be made aware of the dangers. They also have first-hand experience of the tasks, so they can help ensure all risks are accounted for.

Reduce Injury Risks

Review your manual handling assessment to determine the necessary control measures. Control measures depend on the specific risks, so there is no set way of making a manual handling task safe.

However, there are some widely effective options:

  • Reduce the weight of the load by separating it into parts.
  • Rearrange workspaces to reduce the distance loads must be carried.
  • Ensure the work environment is suitable (e.g. level flooring, good lighting, space to move)
  • Rotate duties so workers have breaks from manual handling.
  • Provide trucks, trolleys and other equipment.

Again, it’s important to involve workers. They can offer feedback on the practicality of your plans.

Reduce Manual Injury Risks

Manual Handling Training

Under MHOR, manual handling training is always required. Training is critical because it makes employees aware of manual handling risks, which many workers overlook until an injury happens. It also equips employees with the knowledge and skills they need to perform manual handling tasks safely.

Training isn’t always effective, however. Workers won’t apply safe manual handling techniques if they’re impractical. They may also forget instructions if they’re not regularly reinforced.

Online Manual Handling Training

Online training is an effective solution to the drawbacks of traditional training methods.

Our online Manual Handling Training course was developed by industry experts who understand the real-world challenges of manual handling. The techniques included are proven to be safe and effective, ensuring your employees can apply what they learn directly to their tasks and reduce the risk of injury.

Plus, because the course is online, you can easily share it with your staff. This flexibility makes it simple to offer regular refreshers, keeping safe manual handling techniques top of mind. And if any employees need extra instruction, you can easily provide targeted training.

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Jonathan Goby
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