Picking up and moving loads, also known as manual handling, is a very common work activity. And, because the concept is simple, it seems like something we should all know how to do.
But without training on how to do it right, this work can lead to significant musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders can severely injure muscles, joints and tendons, leading to severe pain and damage to the arms, legs, shoulder and neck.
Around 120,000 people suffered work injuries directly related to manual handling in 2016, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Due to the risk involved, the government has created specific regulations requiring employers act to control the risk of these type of injuries. Let’s look at what this entails.
What Does the Law Say About Manual Handling?
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations in 1992 (amended in 2002), is a key piece of health and safety legislation that commits employers to protecting employees for injury from manual handling.
The regulations define Manual Handling as:
“…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying, or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force.”
Under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, employers need to make a satisfactory assessment of the possible risk involved to employees when handling manual loads. This means that the employer has to carry out a risk assessment on all manual handling tasks that potentially threaten an employee’s health or well-being.
The legislature affects employees too. All employees are expected to take reasonable care of their own health and safety as well as those around them while they carry out any manual handling operations. If they are unable to meet their health and safety duties, then this should be communicated with their employers.
Conducting a Manual Handling Risk Assessment
Like many health and safety issues in the work place, a risk assessment is the first activity that should be carried out before any manual handling takes place.
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the workplace environment and work carried out by the employee complies with health and safety standards, and that risk of injury is kept to an absolute minimum.
Your assessment should be specific to the level and types of risks that you face. For instance, manual handling in construction presents a variety of hazards based on the site you work on and the type of materials that are being moved.
Whatever your area, the Full Manual Handling Risk Assessment by the HSE is a good starting for making sure that you comply with all of the health and safety protocols.
As an employer, you are obligated to avoid or prevent employee manual handling as much as possible if there is a conceivable risk of injury. If this can’t be done then it’s up to you to reduce the risk of injury as much as possible.
If at any time an employee complains of pain or discomfort, it’s your duty to implement changes to work involving manual handling to reduce the load and prevent injury. If the employee continues to experience physical distress, then you have to consider alternative strategies.
The manual handling regulations lay out a number of different measures that employers must implement to reduce the risks of manual handling. These include:
- Avoiding hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable;
- Assessing any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided; and
- Reducing the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable
What other manual handling laws should employers know?
There are a number of other manual handling legislation that employers should keep in mind to reduce the risk of injury and help guarantee the health and safety of their employees:
- The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 lays the groundwork for employers’ responsibilities when it comes to complying with the current manual handling regulations
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 mandates that employers carry out risk assessments, implement necessary safety measures, and provide information and training for all aspects of workplace health and safety, including manual handling
There are also sector specific regulations that should be investigated. For instance, if you work in construction, the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 may will provide you advice on how to handle manual handling in construction.
How can employers ensure that their business is compliant with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations?
There are a number of different steps you can take to ensure that your business is compliant with the manual handling legislature:
- Follow the guidance outlined in the regulations
- Employ current and comprehensive risk assessment plans for all the manual handling tasks that your employees are responsible for
- Provide frequent, comprehensive training and refresher courses for your employees
- Employ manual handling instructors, or train managers to the same standard so that they can safely oversee employees
There are also numerous tools available for employers to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations. Health and safety checklist is a digital tool that allows you to keep track that training is implemented and that employees are using the training in the workplace.
Manual handling isn’t just about employers, employees are also expected to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, as well as others who could be affected by their actions.
Employees are obliged to:
- Adhere to health and safety protocols as they relate to their work
- Make proper use of health and safety equipment provided by their employer
- Work with their employer to promote health and safety
- Inform their employer if they find handling activities potentially risky or hazardous
- Ensure that their activities do not put others at risk
To help ensure that employers remain compliant with the above laws, Human Focus provides online health and safety training for a number of different industries. These courses are designed to help both employers and employees remain responsible for workplace health and safety during the course of their work day.