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Manual Handling, made safe - Blog

All the techniques, assessments and checks you need to know to make manual handling safe in the workplace.

In 2018, GAP Hire Solutions launched ‘Think Safe’, a health and safety principle, designed to encourage and deepen health and safety culture in the workplace.

To accompany this, GAP later created and launched its Interactive Toolbox Talks (ITBTs). ITBTs were created to make health and safety more fun and engaging whilst still being educational. The talks are free to access online and consist of 15 separate modules that provide a wealth of information on different safety topics. One of the modules covered is manual handling.

The Interactive Toolbox Talk on manual handling provides you with guidance on manual handling operations, including safe lifting practices, to help prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

According to the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR), manual handling is defined as “…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand of bodily force.”

The MHOR 1992 requires employees to “assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided and reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.”

Due to the nature of the industry GAP staff work in, the risk of injury due to manual handling is high. And so, action needs to be taken

On average, 41% of workers in the UK suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and the total number of work-related cases rose to 470,000 in 2020/2021, a prevalence rate of 1,420 per 100,000 workers. The injuries affected most persons in their upper limbs or neck, with back and lower limbs following.

Safe manual handling processes are essential for ensuring safe working conditions that will help prevent accident or injury.

MAC Tool and Risk Assessment

The MHOR 1992 establishes a clear hierarchy of measures which should be taken into consideration when dealing with risks for manual handling, known as the Manual Handling Assessment Charts (the MAC tool):

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable
  • Assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoid
  • Reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.

Whilst the MAC tool is extremely useful, it is not appropriate for all manual handling operations and a full risk assessment should also be completed in conjunction with this.

  • Is manual handling essential?
  • Always make use of mechanical handling instead of manual handling where it is possible to do so, for example, pallet trucks, slab lifters and forklifts
  • Know your own capabilities, what can you realistically handle?
  • If you cannot safely manage the item by yourself, call for assistance
  • Confirm the walkway is clear from obstructions and is well-light

In addition to this, take into account external factors such as weather and temperature. Will this impact the lift and movement of the load if moving from inside to outside, hot to cold?

Checks to carry before lifting

Before making any attempt to carry the load there are certain checks which should always be carried out to ensure safe manual handling practices:

  • Establish the weight of the load before lifting
  • Wear gloves to protect from potential cuts and punctures
  • Wear safety boots or shoes to protect your feet from falling loads
  • Plan your route. Remove any obstructions and make sure your pathway is clear and visible
  • Confirm if you need help and source support if needed

Good Handling Technique

Now that you would be ready to lift the load, you should follow the below steps to make sure your lifting technique is safe and effective. Health and Safety Executive advise that a good handling technique is not a substitute to be used in place of other steps which should be taken beforehand to reduce risk of injury.

  • Take a deep breath in to provide support to your spine
  • Keep your body close to the load while lifting, and for as long as possible while lifting
  • Ensure your grip is secure and not at risk of slipping
  • Make sure your knees are bent and your back is straight when picking up the load
  • Keep the heaviest side of the load closest to your body
  • Stand reasonably close to the load, with your feet hip-width apart

GAP also has some handy safe lifting tips that should help keep you safe while manual handling.

  • Avoid twisting your body or leaning sideways
  • Avoid jerking movements, keep all movement smooth
  • If two or more people are lifting, one person must take control and co-ordinate the lift
  • Don’t carry loads which obscure your vision
  • Lift slowly and smoothly
  • When lifting to a height from the floor, do so in two stages

If you follow all these tips and ensure good handling technique when lifting, this will aid in safe and secure manual handling manoeuvres which will help greatly in reducing your risk of suffering from work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

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