How to Take the Strain out of Manual Handling Operations

In the 2019/2020 reporting year, 19% of all RIDDOR reported injuries were attributed to handling, lifting, or carrying operations. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but for context, that’s 12,431 accidents serious enough for a RIDDOR report!

Let’s take a look at what can be done to mitigate the risk of injury in the workplace from manual handling operations.

What counts as Manual Handling?

  Manual handling operations can consist of anything such as picking up and carrying an object, pushing or pulling mobile loads, or holding or supporting a heavy load for a prolonged period of time. A few examples may include:

  • Lifting an object onto a high platform, or into a vehicle (such as storage or transport boxes)
  • Lowering something from a raised platform (such as working equipment or materials lowered from scaffolding)
  • Pushing an object or heavy load to a new position (like pushing a filing cabinet next to a new desk)
  • Pulling a heavy object (Pulling the filing cabinet back because you’ve realised you’ve put it next to the wrong desk)
  • Holding or restraining a load (Holding up a pile of materials to reach something at the bottom, or lifting a desk up to free trapped cables underneath)

These examples are quite specific, but there are a number of aspects to any task that can fall under one or more of the categories above. Also, if you can use lift assist equipment to make moving a heavy load easier and safer, it’s worth the extra five minutes to set it up than straining and hurting yourself!

No Pain, No Strain

We lift, carry, and hold things every single day, so it is important that the risks, hazards, and potential injuries of manual handling are correctly identified. We won’t go into too much detail, but considering it is responsible for one of the highest non-fatal injury records reported through RIDDOR in recent years, it’s something worth keeping in mind.

Back pains and strains are rife in manual handling operations. Spinal damage and slipped discs can cause considerable discomfort to say the very least and require serious medical attention. When carrying heavy items, try to avoid stooping, twisting, or bending your back.

Muscular strains or sprains in the back, arms, wrists or shoulders can be serious and require a lot of rest and recovery. Carrying items that are hard to grip, or heavier than you can safely handle can cause problems like this, and so if something is a little too much to move safely, try to find an alternate way; lift assist equipment, two-man lifts, or there might be a different way to complete the task without requiring the item to be moved.

Hand injuries can occur at any time with manual handling: picking up a heavy load without correctly gripping it; straining your hands by carrying it for too long; catching your hand on the nearby environment while moving the load; or trapping your fingers between the object and it’s destination surface when putting it down. Pay close attention to your hand positioning while carrying out lifting operations to ensure they are free from potential hazards.

One, Two, Three, Lift!

Here are a few things to keep in mind for good handling and lifting techniques:

  • Identify the start and end point of the item transfer, as well as the safest possible route
  • Always carefully test the weight of the item first before lifting; if you think it might be too heavy, consider lift-assist equipment, or asking a colleague for help with a two-man lift
  • Keep your feet shoulder width apart as a good base of support
  • Squat or half-kneel down to the item, never bend down to lift heavy items
  • When carrying a heavy load, keep your back straight and shoulders back
  • Hold the item as close to yourself as reasonably possible
  • Avoid twisting or turning, and never lift the item above your head
  • Set the item down carefully, bending at the knees and avoid trapping your fingers between the item and surfaces.

If you are unsure, speak to a manager or Health & Safety Lead before beginning any lifting operations. For more tips and advice, check out our blog at: Acton E-Docs | Blog