Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including manual handling injuries, are one of the most common types of occupational ill health in the UK. Manual handling injuries can not only affect the injured person in the short term but can also lead to permanent ill health such as recurrent back problems. More than a third of all over-three-day injuries reported each year to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities are caused by manual handling.
As such, it is essential manual handling hazards in the workplace are identified to ensure suitable controls are put in place to protect those undertaking the task. To support this, the University has a Manual Handling Policy, to not only ensure compliance with relevant legislation but the Policy also details the responsibilities of Colleges, Professional Services and staff and students undertaking handling tasks.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 set out a clear hierarchy of measures for dealing with risks likely to cause harm from manual handling. These are:
Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as reasonably practicable.
Assess any manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
Reduce the risk of injury to as low as reasonably practicable.
Assessing Manual Handling Tasks
Handling tasks are often put under the one umbrella of ‘manual handling’. However, there are different types of handling techniques, and it is essential the correct type of assessment is undertaken for the handling method being used. The HSE break handling tasks down into five different categories:
Lifting Operations (including lowering)
Pushing and Pulling
Repetitive Tasks (of the upper limbs)
Consultation and Communication
It is essential those undertaking the task are involved in the assessment process. Nobody else will understand the task and associated issues better – they may also have some good ideas about solutions. In addition, on completion the findings of the assessment must be communicated to relevant persons, so they understand any risks and associated controls. Individuals must also be reminded they must report any concerns promptly.
HSE Handling Assessments
To simplify handling risk assessments, the HSE have developed specific on-line assessment ‘Tools’ and Guides for each handling category. It is strongly recommended you familiarise yourself with the relevant on-line ‘Tool’ and Guide before assessing a handling task in person on-site or assessing a task as a desktop exercise. This will ensure you know what to look for during the assessment, so things are not missed.
On-line Handling Assessment ‘Tools’
The HSE’s on-line ‘Tools’ are very easy to use, adopting a step-by-step approach which guides the ‘assessor’ with set questions, prompts and an array of handling options (e.g., weight, repetition, duration) to help assess the risks associated with the handling task. The process will also score the handling task with a colour coded ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, ‘High’, ‘Unacceptable’ Risk Rating with further prompts to help you decide the required controls to manage any risk.
On completion of the on-line assessment, you must enter your email address and a summary of the assessment will be sent to you.
Supporting ‘Tool’ Guides
Each on-line Tool is supported with a unique Guide. If you do not wish to use the on-line ‘Tool’ you can print the Guide and complete the handling assessment in hard copy. However, as it is easier to miss sections you must check the Form is completed in full and ensure any writing is legible.
Lifting / Lowering / Carrying / Team Operations
Pushing and Pulling
Whether you utilise the on-line Tool and receive an email summary or print the Guide and complete the process in hard copy, on completion the assessment must be saved in a suitable location, which is accessible by others, in case later reference is required.
Even if choosing the hard copy option, remember the Form can still be scanned and saved as an electronic, PDF file.
Individuals must also take some personal responsibility for looking after their backs., and use materials and equipment provided to help with a handling task as intended with correct handling techniques practiced. It is also essential that people do not struggle when performing a handling task as this could highlight something is wrong. Those carrying out handling tasks must also report any concerns to their Line Manager / Supervisor promptly.
The following links provide some useful advice on how to look after your back and the correct use of lifting aids which, in turn, will help to look after your back.
Other Useful Information