Relating to the holding, supporting, putting down, picking up, pushing, pulling, carrying, or moving of a load by one or more workers, the manual handling of heavy objects is most common in the agriculture, construction, and restaurant industries. It is a fact that more than 25% of accidents occurring in the UK workplace each year, for example, are associated with incorrect manual handling tips for contractors, with back injury being the main cause. Other results include:
Between 2006 and 2011, up to 1600 injuries were reported in the construction industry by the Irish Health and Safety Authority due to a lack of compliance with manual handling regulations (the cause of at least 21,000 days lost).
In 1996, the University of Iowa surveyed 2,929 workers in 13 separate construction trades and 70% revealed suffering from lower back pain in the last year.
The general number of health and safety problems involved should be enough to make contractors ready to take part in the teaching of manual handling tips for contractors. This needs to be a comprehensive form of training; not just teaching the correct lifting methods, but also the willingness to ask for help when something is too heavy to manage.
The result of poor manual handling techniques can lead to injuries in the back, arms, knees and other body parts. These injuries could cause sudden cuts or bruises, maybe happening over time through damage to the body’s musculoskeletal system (MSD) if manual handling has been a repetitive part of their job and manual handling regulations have not been complied with.
How to Determine the Risks
Before providing a contractor with any manual handling tasks, a risk assessment should be carried out by the safety manager, looking at:
- The Load: Regarding the size and weight of a certain object which could be hard to grasp or reach from a high position.
- The Task: The job they have been given could be too repetitive, maybe requiring an awkward movement such as twisting or squatting down.
- The Environment: In an enclosed space, an awkward action such as twisting may be necessary. Poor lighting or a wet floor surface could also be the cause of accidents.
- The Individual: Contractors should be experienced in this form of work, strong enough to carry out the job, without health problems and using any protective equipment required.
For example, scaffolding places contractors at a high risk of MSD. Strength is important because of the demanding weight of the loads involved, being repetitively passed on and often handled from awkward positions, e.g. bending forwards, lifting and reaching above shoulder height. Scaffolders work from different locations sometimes at the risk of falling from heights and it is essential for them to comply with the correct manual handling regulations.
How to Reduce the Health and Safety Risks
The best option is being able to reduce the health and safety risks completely, maybe with the use of a machine to lift heavy objects. If this cannot be done, a risk assessment should be carried out and teaching the correct manual handling tips for contractors for lifting heavy objects may be necessary. The requirements for an adequate risk assessment can be shown by the loss of £14.2 billion in the UK from 2012-2013, for example, due to injury and ill-health in the workplace.
Perhaps, lifting large objects as part of a team or remembering to hold objects close to the body, standing with feet in a stable position, without twisting, leaning back or sideways. These are important manual handling techniques to always use yourself, showing your own commitment to health and safety in the workplace.
Things to Always Do as a Safety Manager
- Assess all the health and safety risks involved where manual handling tips for contractors is required
- Avoid manual handling where possible
- Deliver training of correct manual handling tips for contractors for necessary tasks
- Provide accurate information about the load and lifting techniques
- Provide a safe workplace environment
- Encourage workers to ask for help if it’s needed
- Supply well maintained equipment and PPE where it’s necessary
- Make sure of good posture, fitness, health and flexibility
- Evaluate jobs which could lead to injuries, explaining any manual handling regulations to comply with
- Decide on and implement the changes needed, e.g. use of mechanical or other means such as a tail-lift to handle heavy loads
What Not to Do
- Encourage the lifting of loads which are too heavy
- Include jobs which require bending over for too long
- Include jobs involving excessive twisting of the trunk
- Use any unsafe manual handling techniques yourself
- Use any PPE which affects body movement or lifting
- Include workers who are insufficiently trained, unaware of any important manual handling regulations or not fit enough for the job
With 25% of the entire EU workforce feeling that their problem with back pain is the result of their current job, the significance of enforcing the correct manual handling tips for contractors is obvious. Not teaching the correct lifting methods or complying to all of the sufficient manual handling regulations as Safety Manager can be the cause of immediate accidents or long-term injuries which have formed over time.