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In 2012, almost half of work-related injuries reported to the Health and Safety Executive were down to poor manual handling and lifting techniques. Simon Francis from award-winning industrial supplies

business ESE Direct looks into safer alternatives. It goes without saying that incorrect manual handling is one of the most common causes of injury at work. In fact, there were almost half a million people who suffered damage to muscles, joints and tendons caused by bad posture, awkward positions and poor lifting techniques last year – accounting for almost half of all work- related injuries reported.

out risk assessments to providing handling aids such as trolleys, sack trucks, electric or hand- powered stackers, pallet trucks, scissor tables and conveyors to ensure manual lifting is kept to a minimum.

Most employers would baulk at such statistics and yet, there are a huge number of roles where lifting and carrying are a necessary part of the job description. So, what can be done to protect people from musculoskeletal disorders sustained in the workplace?

Taking action to prevent the type of injuries caused by unsafe lifting techniques makes sense practically and financially. Employers need to be doing everything possible to protect their staff – from carrying

Businesses should provide mechanical aids if it is reasonable and practical to do so, but consideration should also be given in other situations as well, because the right equipment can seriously improve your productivity as well as safety. Having employees off sick costs the business money, but there is also an increasingly worrying risk of being sued for failing in your duty of care. In short, it pays to take precautions.

Most jobs require some lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling as part of daily activities. In some, such as on building sites, farms and factories, the loads are greater and therefore


the risks are higher. But employees in offices, hospitals, banks, schools and universities and those who work in distribution or delivery are also at risk.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 is a document which lays out some guidelines useful to businesses and applies to a wide range of manual handling activities including lifting, carrying, lowering, pushing and pulling. It includes suggestions for reducing the risk of injury when moving a load, such as making the load smaller and lighter, breaking up large consignments into more manageable chunks and modifying your work flow to reduce carrying distances, twisting movements or the lifting of things from floor level to above shoulder height.

The guidelines also suggest using mechanical handling equipment wherever possible, an ideal supported by ESE Direct. Using equipment such as trolleys, hydraulic lifters, tilters and rotators, as well as scissor lift tables, can eliminate unnecessary bending and stretching.

By law, not only should an employer be providing appropriate mechanical aids in the workplace where needed, they should also be looking at properly training staff to lift correctly and adopt good handling techniques. The Health


and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that training is supplemented with regular monitoring and reviews of procedures to ensure that the training is understood and applied.

While employers shoulder a great deal of the burden in ensuring workplace safety, employees must also be aware of ways they can protect themselves. For a start, it helps to understand the best ways to lift, push or pull an item without putting extra pressure and strain on the body. Physiotherapist, Mark Newman, a partner at Gilmour Piper and Associates, said: “Research has shown that repetitive or heavy lifting is a major risk factor for developing and exacerbating low back or joint and muscle pains. When performing a lift, the body has to balance the load evenly through the muscles of the legs, arms and spine and the joints of the knee, hip and spine in order to prevent overload and injury.

“Any injury causes subsequent lack of normal function and movement in the affected area. This can require a prolonged treatment period to correct the movement dysfunction to allow the affected tissues to heal and prevent re-injury. In some cases, the effect of poor lifting technique results in irreversible damage that leaves one suffering with long term pain.”

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