Manual Handling: 8 Tips for Avoiding a Royal Pain in the Back

11 February 2015

The HSE has published recent manual handling statistics.  Did you know over 900,000 working days were lost due to manual handling injuries in 2013/14?  Almost 7 days were lost for each manual handling injury!  Can you believe manual handling comprises of close to 25% of RIDDOR reportable injuries?  According to these latest HSE statistics on manual handling, there’s more work to be done to keep employees safe.

The good news is that there’s been no fatality, but there is some bad news - a significant percentage of manual handling injuries have long term impacts.

So, here is what you need to do.  Anyone involved in manual handling should be made aware of the following essential manual handling principles.

Stop and think

Before going in for a handling task without any consideration and ‘guns blazing’, we need to pause for thought and consider how to accomplish the task safely.  We should consider the load involved.  Is it bulky? Is it off balance? Are the edges safe? How heavy is the load? Is the load secure?  In addition to the load itself, consider the individual, task and the surrounding environment.

Proper foot position

Once you’ve paused for thought and are ready for ‘lift off’, make sure your feet are in the correct stance, that is, your feet are square with your shoulders and you are close to the object you are lifting.

Bend knees and keep back straight

If you’d like a demonstration on how to carry out this step, watch a four year old lift a cardboard box from the floor.  Children will always plant their feet in a good position, bend their knees properly and all the while keeping their backs suitably straight with their heads held high.  Unfortunately, as we get older we go out of our way to unlearn this technique.

Get a firm grip

Get a grip!  If the object you’re holding were to slip, this could cause serious damage from any sudden jerk on your spine, tendons and muscles.

Lift slowly

Quick movements will do us no favours when we’re performing manual handling tasks.  Slow and steady wins the race every time.

Move the feet - do not twist

Don’t do the twist!  Though dancing the twist may have been a favourite pastime for some of us of a certain age, this is definitely no longer cool.  Keeping your body straight is very important when handling.

Keep the load close to the body

If you think of your body as a big lever, the further away you hold your load, the more force will be exerted on your back.  Holding the load close to our bodies reduces the force on our backs and the risks involved.

Put down to adjust

As is true for most things we do, it’s important to review activities as we go, so we can continually improve.  If while performing a handling task you find that you’ve not planned the task suitably, start over again.  Put down the load in the reverse order you lifted it and make adjustments that will make the load more manageable.

I hope these tips will help you or someone you work with avoid a ‘major pain in the back’!

Image by Freepik


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