In 2018 there were approximately 507,000 (yes, 0.5 Million!) work-related musculoskeletal (MSK) disorder cases.
83% of these were related to the upper limbs, neck or back.
The HSE (UK) estimates that 8.9 Million working days were lost due to these MSK disorders.
Manual handling, awkward or tiring positions and keyboard work or repetitive action are estimated to be the main causes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Due to the scale of the issue, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 were implemented to outline the legal requirements for businesses in the UK.
Manual handling and lowering the risk of injury is not an exact science. Every lift and every environment requires unique consideration.
However, to avoid manual handling or musculo-skeletal injuries, a few simple principles can help reduce risk to workers. Let’s take a look at 5 Principles you can use achieve safer manual handling.
5 Manual Handling Principles to Reduce Risk
The thing we all forget to do, which is perhaps most important, make a PLAN!
Before you lift the object, you should trace the entire path of travel to the final location to make sure the entire way is clear for the load. Tripping over obstacles or having to put down the load midway are hazards that can easily be avoided.
Just looking at an object can give you some idea of whether another team member or mechanical assistance will be needed to get the object from “point a” to “point b.” Many packing labels will specify weight, and the size and shape of the package can indicate if a truck or dolly will be necessary. Never attempt to lift cumbersome or objects heavier than 51 pounds (or less depending on your strength) without help.
If there is no easy way to ascertain the weight of a load, a quick shove or nudge can indicate whether outside help will be needed. Know your limits, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed.
It is always preferable to lift and put down a heavy object close to the height at which it will be carried. Appropriately stage materials that must be moved whenever possible.
Approach the load evenly, with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Move the center of your body as close as possible to its center before lowering yourself to lift the object.
Get a Grip: Whenever possible, use handholds or handles to maximize the power of the worker. Use two hands whenever possible and encircle the object).
As you move the object upward, maintain a natural motion, keeping the load as close as possible to your spine. Engage the muscles of your torso to stabilize your spine and maintain steady breathing while your legs and buttocks perform most of the lifting work. Your feet should only move to keep the load and your torso aligned and neutral.
Power Zone: The “power zone” or preferred work zone is the area of your body horizontally between your shoulders and vertically between the middle of your thighs and center of your chest. Keeping heavy loads in this area helps ensure your limbs and trunk are not forced into awkward postures and an increased likelihood of injury.
4. Proceed (with caution)
As you carry the load, keep the spine upright and avoid twisting, bending and reaching. Rather than twisting at the waist or along the spine, step with one foot in the new direction. Then, allow the rest of your body and the load to follow. Avoid carrying loads that interfere with a clear view of your travel path or have a spotter make sure no obstacles present a tripping hazard while the object is in motion.
When you reach the destination, lower the object in the reverse of how you lifted it. Never drop a heavy load, shove it into place or jerk it around. Smooth, steady, deliberate motions protect you from unnecessary strain and injury.
Lifting, carrying and putting down a load with care and consideration helps prevent unnecessary musculoskeletal injuries.