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While your staff’s day to day work might seem like just pushing a pencil, manual handling and ergonomic risks are a threat in almost every profession. Chris Hilder, Director of Risk and Safety Plus Limited, discusses how you can keep your workforce safe.

All businesses have varying amounts of manual handling (MH) requirements from moving reams of paper in an office to shifting boxes or furniture in a removals firm. Incorrect manual handling is one of the most common causes of injury at work. It causes work- related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which

ASSESSING THE RISKS The next step is to assess which factors are contributing to the risk of injury. Typical risk factors include:

• Type of work – working in a fixed posture for a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of injury.

• Layout of the workspace – a cramped or poorly designed workspace can increase the risk of injury by forcing people to assume awkward postures, such as bending or twisting.


account for over a third of all workplace injuries in the UK and it is estimated that 11.6 million working days a year are lost to work-related MSDs.

Manual handling injuries are not limited to those sustained by lifting or carrying heavy loads. A person can be injured when handling objects in

• Weight of an object – a heavy load may be difficult to lift and carry and can increase the risk of injury.

• Location of an object – heavy objects that have to be lifted awkwardly (for example, above shoulder height or from below knee level) can increase the risk of injury.

• Duration and frequency – increasing the number of times an object is handled or the length of time for which it is handled can increase the chance of injury.

a variety of ways including pulling, pushing, holding or restraining. The object can be anything from an animal to a piece of equipment.


HAZARDS Some factors in the workplace may increase the risk of an injury occurring. These hazards can be identified in different ways;

• Condition of an object – more effort may be required to manipulate badly designed or poorly maintained equipment

• Awkward loads – loads that are difficult to grasp, slippery or an awkward shape can increase the risk of injury.

• Handling a live person or animal – lifting or restraining a person or animal can cause sprains and other injuries.

• The work is dictated by an automated process – for example packing on a production line.

talk over risk factors with workers and check through injury records to help pinpoint recurring problems or staff who have existing problems or disabilities. You should also identify any new or inexperienced staff, who tend to be at higher risk, and always assess whether staff have appropriate training and workwear.

• Pushing and pulling tasks – HSE statistics show that 61% of accidents involved pushing and pulling objects that were not supported on wheels (e.g. bales, desks etc.) and 35% of pushing and pulling accidents involved wheeled objects.

• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Take account of any PPE that may need to be worn that could inhibit movement and handling capabilities.

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