Manual handling can be difficult to avoid in most work. Unfortunately, over a quarter of workplace injuries in Victoria happen because of manual handling. Workplace injures can lead to a reduction in staff numbers and morale. This can then affect productivity and the business’ earnings. These kinds of injuries shouldn’t be overlooked. They are also easily prevented with material handling equipment and other risk assessment and control methods. Find out how below.
What is manual handling?
To effectively prevent manual handling injuries, it’s important to understand what manual handling is. A lot of actions fall under the heading of manual handling. Things like lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, packing, assembling, typing, cleaning and using hand tools and machinery.
Manual handling injuries can also come about when workers aren’t prevented with material handling equipment or properly trained to deal with the physical demands of a job. Alternatively, the workplace environment might not be set up properly, like computer monitors sitting too low or workbenches being too high.
So how do you go about reducing the manual handling risks in your workplace?
- Recognizing risks
The first step is to identify and assess the risks around your workplace. Start by speaking with your workers and learning if they have sustained any injuries at work or experience pain as they work. You can also check any injury records you have to identify patterns.
Investigate your workplace thoroughly. Look for anything that could pose a manual handling risk. Watch how your workers move. Do they have to twist or bend awkwardly? Do they seem to struggle with the loads they have to carry? Are they needing to carry loads unnecessarily far?
- Making small changes
Small changes can make a big difference. Once you’ve identified and assessed the risks at your workplace, think about if a small change can reduce or remove the risk.
For instance, consider how your workers gather items for an order if they work in a warehouse. Do they have to reach for high shelves? They may accidentally drop items, injuring themselves and the item in the process. Excessive stretching can also pull muscles and prevent the worker from doing their job as effectively or at all. But these problems could be solved by changing how items are stored and/or providing a stepladder to reach higher items.
Similarly, if workers are having to put together multiple or heavy items, they may strain muscles. You can prevent injury though by changing things up. Have workers assemble the order where it is dispatched so it doesn’t have to be carried. Alternatively, you could break heavy orders up to make them lighter, and bunch multiple items together to reduce how many things need to be carried.
- Providing manual handling training
You can also minimize risks by ensuring workers know how to properly perform manual handling tasks. They should know how to properly lift heavy items without straining their backs. When it comes to dealing with hazardous materials, like chemicals, they should also be aware of personal protection requirements, like goggles and gloves.
Speak to workers to learn about their current understanding of ways they can reduce manual handling injuries. Organize training for them as needed.
Additionally, make sure your workers understand that taking regular breaks is part of safe manual handling practices. Encourage them to regularly stretch and take short walks to loosen their muscles. While it may seem counter-intuitive to encourage time away from their work, when they return they will perform more effectively.
- Providing material handling equipment
The best way to prevent manual handling injuries is to reduce the manual handling. Using specialized equipment can help you do this.
For instance, if heavy loads are a frequent issue, a forklift can swiftly deal with the job. Further, if they need to carry drums containing dangerous chemicals, provide them with drum handling equipment to prevent spills. Similarly, heavy pipes should be moved using pipe lifting equipment and not just manpower alone. Find out Different Kinds of Pipe Lifting Equipment
Manual handing may be unavoidable in some instances, but you can do your part to help reduce risks and therefore manual handling injuries. Look around your workplace and speak to workers to understand what injuries are common and to identify any risks.
Once you understand what the risks are you can start combating them. Try and change how work is conducted or adapt the workspace. You can also offer training to workers and provide them with specialized equipment. Manual handling injuries can be a big drain on any business. It’s in a business’ best interest to reduce manual handling injuries as best as possible.