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The Skills You Need for Manual Handling

See also: Risk Management

Manual handling refers to any activity in the workplace that requires the use of manual force, such as lifting, pulling, pushing or holding objects. It is an important part of the daily operations of many businesses in the UK and elsewhere. However, a very simple looking procedure can be dangerous if dealt with incorrectly.

According to research by the trade union Unison, more than a third of all workplace injuries relate in some way to manual handling. These injuries include work-related musculoskeletal disorders, such as pain to the arms, joints, and legs.

Because of the risks involved, companies that require manual handling need to make sure that whoever is doing the job is professionally trained. The employee should be able to perform a thorough assessment of risk and should be aware of all potential hazards present in the workplace.

Injuries relating to manual handling can have serious implications for the employer, as well an employee.  To minimize the risk of injuries, here are some of the most important skills needed for safe manual handling.

Risk Assessment

Anyone involved in the manual moving and handling of goods is at high risk of being injured. Therefore, the right person to perform manual handling work must be able to carry out a thorough risk assessment before performing such activity. By evaluating the risk, the employee can identify any potential hazards and will be able to take the right steps to mitigate these risks, to ensure that the entire process will be safe and smooth.

Risk is present in all companies, regardless of the nature of the business, and even when working remotely. However, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and agriculture are the industries that carry the highest risk because of the manual handling activities involved in their daily operations. Common injuries related to manual handling work are musculoskeletal disorders, injuries of the joints and other issues affecting the upper and lower limbs, as well as the back.

Before performing any manual handling task, an employee should conduct a risk assessment.  This allows the employee to evaluate the risk factors involved in the operation and come up with suitable measures to minimize these risks. This risk management should include evaluating the task, the objects that will be handled, and the work environment itself.

Critical Thinking and Planning

Critical thinking is an important skill that workers responsible for manual handling work should possess. These workers may have to deal with issues and challenges that would require them to use strong critical thinking abilities. Given the dangerous nature of the job, the worker must be able to think and plan well and be quick to resolve any issues.

Most injuries related to manual handling are due to poor judgment or people making the wrong decisions. This is why critical thinking is important since it helps to ensure a smooth and safe workflow. For instance, a worker should be able to determine if a mechanical aid such as wheelbarrow or trolley is needed for certain situations. He or she should be able to evaluate how to handle the object well to ensure a smooth and safe operation.

Handling Technique

As mentioned, manual handling refers to any activity at work that requires handling different objects. This could refer to the lifting, pushing, pulling, lowering, and carrying of loads. To ensure safety, the person responsible for these tasks should be aware of the proper handling techniques involved. The techniques can be learnt through proficient manual handling online training which should be undertaken before tackling any heavy or awkward lifts.

One way to prevent injuries in manual handling is to implement proper handling techniques. For instance, when lifting heavy objects, here are the techniques to follow:

  • Remove any object that could obstruct the route.

  • When performing a long lift, rest the load midway. Place it on a bench or table then change your grip.

  • Keep the load close to your waist. It should be kept close to your body for as long as you can when lifting.

  • Ensure that the heaviest part of the load is placed right next to your body.

  • Maintain a stable position and ensure that your feet are apart with one leg slightly moved forward to maintain balance.



Spatial Awareness

By being aware of the environment around the workplace, injuries resulting from manual handling can be avoided. You might put much of your focus on the load you are carrying, but you have to also be aware of your surroundings. Instead of looking down at the load you are carrying, you should look ahead so you will see where you are going and avoid any obstructions that could potentially lead to injury.

You should also be aware of environmental factors such as temperature that could affect your manner of handling and lifting the load. For instance, muscle flexibility tends to decrease during cold temperatures, while hot temperatures could cause heat stress. Furthermore, low visibility and poor lighting could increase your chances of falling and tripping.

First Aid

Employees involved in manual handling must be aware of the basic first aid techniques so they will know how to react accordingly in case of accidents. They should be informed of the proper steps to take if they are on the scene of an accident. Some of the most common injuries related to manual handling are fractures, sprains, open wounds, chronic muscle conditions, and crushing injury.

A crushing injury usually happens due to lack of manual handling training, which can be easily avoided. When injuries do happen, employees are advised to quickly do a rick assessment to make sure no one else is in danger and then decide whether to call the emergency services and seek advice before removing the crushing object. If there is bleeding, they should put on a makeshift bandage to control the bleeding. They must apply pressure to the part of the body where bleeding occurs and check the other injured parts to provide first aid treatment.

If the incident has led to an open wound like bleeding scalp, the bleeding must immediately be controlled. Control the bleeding using a pad or bandage. Let the patient sit up to reduce the bleeding if they haven’t contracted other injuries that could prevent them from sitting up. The patient’s condition must be closely monitored until such time that the emergency responders will arrive.



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In conclusion

It is important to assess risk before you proceed with any manual handling and, if a big lift is attempted, it is beneficial to stretch out afterwards in order to promote a quick recovery. If you follow the advice above and seek professional training, then you can greatly reduce the risk of injury from poor manual handling.


About the Author


This article was provided by Virtual College who provide bespoke learning, CPD, and online training resources to workplaces across the UK in many different sectors.

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