According to the Health and Safety Executive approximately 120,000 people were injured at work from manual handling incidents last year. Over 30% of food and drink industry injuries reported to HSE are manual handling injuries such as back injuries, this represents around 1700 acute injuries per year. Manual handling injuries are caused by handling and lifting – 60% of the injuries involve lifting heavy objects.
Main causes of injury
In the food and drink industries, most musculoskeletal injuries arise from just 5 causes:
- stacking/unstacking containers (such as boxes, crates and sacks)
- pushing wheeled racks (such as oven racks and trolleys of produce)
- handling drinks containers (such as delivery of casks, kegs and crates).
- packing products (such as cheese, confectionery and biscuits)
- cutting, boning, jointing, trussing and evisceration (such as meat and poultry)
The duty owed by employers is set out clearly in UK legislation.
Section 4 – Duties of employers
4.—(1) each employer shall—
(a) so far as is reasonably practicable, avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured; or
(b) where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured—
- i) make a suitable and sufficient assessment of all such manual handling operations to be undertaken by them, having regard to the factors which are specified in column 1 of Schedule 1 to these Regulations and considering the questions which are specified in the corresponding entry in column 2 of that Schedule,
(ii) take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury to those employees arising out of their undertaking any such manual handling operations to the lowest level reasonably practicable, and
(iii) take appropriate steps to provide any of those employees who are undertaking any such manual handling operations with general indications and, where it is reasonably practicable to do so, precise information on—
(aa) weight of each load, and
(bb) the heaviest side of any load whose centre of gravity is not positioned centrally.
(2) Any assessment such as is referred to in paragraph (1)(b)(i) of this regulation shall be reviewed by the employer who made it if—
(a) there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid; or
(b) there has been a significant change in the manual handling operations to which it relates;
And where as a result of any such review changes to an assessment are required, the relevant employer shall make them.
“Manual handling operations” = any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force.
Section 5 – Duty of employees
- Each employee while at work shall make full and proper use of any system of work provided for his use by his employer in compliance with regulation 4(1)(b)(ii) of these Regulations.
What do the Manual Handling Operations Regulations require?
The Regulations require employers to:
- Avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’;
- Assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided;
- Reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’.
The Regulations do not set specific requirements such as weight limits.
While weight is an important factor, there are many other risk factors which you need to take into account. Where hazardous manual handling cannot be avoided, the Regulations require a risk assessment to determine the risk of manual handling injury and to help identify what remedial action is required. Medical and scientific knowledge stress the importance of an ergonomic approach to manual handling, taking into account the nature of the task, the load, the working environment and individual capability, and this approach requires worker participation. It is central to the European Directive on manual handling and to the Regulations.
Avoiding manual handling
If the general assessment carried out under regulation 3(1) of the Management Regulations indicates a possibility of injury from manual handling operations, first consider whether the manual handling operation can be avoided altogether. You may not need to assess the risk in great detail if the operations can easily be avoided or the appropriate steps to reduce any risk of injury to the lowest level reasonably practicable are obvious.
Eliminating manual handling
When trying to avoid manual handling the first questions to ask are whether the load(s) needs to be handled at all, or could the work be done in a different way? For example, can a process such as machining or wrapping be carried out without lifting the loads? Can a treatment be brought to a patient rather than taking the patient to the treatment?
Automation or mechanisation
If, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, handling the load cannot be avoided, then consider whether the operation(s) can be either automated or mechanised to eliminate the manual aspect of the handling.
If you have been injured at work as a result of manual handling call Richard Meggitt, Solicitor on 0114 2678780 for free advice.