Manual Handling – How to prevent workplace injuries.

When we think of workplace safety, instantly we think about vehicle incidents, electricity problems or even exposure to chemicals. However, based on statistics from Safe Work Australia, musculoskeletal disorders are the most common work-related condition in Australia despite the fact there are known methods to eliminate or minimise them.

Accounting for 39.3 per cent of work-related injuries over 2017, manual handling recorded significantly higher occurrences than slips, trips and falls, hits from moving objects and vehicle incidents.

Almost every workplace involves performing some sort of manual handling task to get the job done. Moving stationary supplies in an office, stacking shelves in a supermarket or carting a wheelbarrow on a job site might not seem like a dangerous task, when performed incorrectly or with poor technique, manual tasks like these can become hazardous to your health.

Injuries caused by manual handling are commonly a result of:

  1. Lifting heavy or awkward objects
  2. Completing repetitive tasks such as stacking or unstacking objects
  3. Pressure to perform tasks quickly
  4. Carrying objects that are difficult to grip
  5. Performing in a challenging environment (i.e. carrying objects down steep stairs)
  6. Environmental factors (heat, cold, lighting)

How Can You Prevent Manual Handling Injuries?

Ensure every employee is informed of the correct lifting and moving procedures in the workplace. If you identify poor lifting and moving practices, raise your concerns with the person. Or, if the task cannot be manually performed safely, bring it to management’s attention immediately.

Workplace safety checks should be completed regularly. These should include:

  • Asking employees to raise any concerns
  • A walk through the workplace to check for any possible safety risks
  • Analysis of injury reports to identify repeat incidents/hazards
  • Continually monitor and update risk identification reports

 A Guide To Safely Lifting And Moving Object

There are many tools and procedures you can implement in your workplace to ensure your health and safety is not at risk when performing manual handling tasks. Examples include:

  • Mechanical aids (trolleys, conveyors, hoists, forklifts)
  • Use of adjustable platforms or scissor lifts
  • Adjustment of work surfaces to accommodate for height and adequate space to complete tasks
  • Ensure employees alternate tasks
  • Train employees in how to use all equipment correctly
  • Provide ample storage space to avoid stacking objects unsafely

Before lifting a load consider; is it absolutely necessary? Only lift a load that you are physically able to carry, consider its height, weight and overall size before attempting to push, pull or lift it.

And most importantly employers must ensure workers on site have received the necessary training. That includes both induction training as well as safety specific training.

For more information about manual handling, please read Safe Work Australia’s National Code of Conduct.