Manual handling: a leading cause of injuries at work
According to HSE, manual handling injuries account for 30% of all injuries in the workplace. These injuries can have serious implications for both the person involved and their employer, and most of the time they can be avoided.
What are the most common manual handling injuries?
Some of the most common manual handling injuries include:
- Back injuries
- Sprains and strains
- Musculoskeletal disorders to upper and lower limbs
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Slips, trips and falls
- Foot injuries from dropping a load
What is manual handling?
Manual handling is quite simply any task that requires you to move something, without the use of machinery or any other device. It may include picking something up, putting something down, pushing an object, pulling an object or carrying an object.
A common misconception is that manual handling can only cause injury if an object is ‘heavy’ but this is not the case. Repetitive movements/tasks pose a risk to workers no matter the weight.
Manual handling injuries can occur almost anywhere in the workplace, from offices to factories, however, they are often caused by awkward posture, repetitive movements of arms or legs, and exacerbation of existing injuries.
What duty does an employer have in avoiding manual handling injuries?
Employers are under a duty to reduce the risk of injury from manual handling to as low as reasonably practicable.
The main piece of legislation which sets out the employer’s duty is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Under these regulations, an employer has a responsibility to risk assess any manual handling task which is undertaken by their employees.
Employers should remove the need for manual handling where possible and, where this is not possible, they should implement reasonable measures to reduce the risk of injury to their staff.
If an employer fails to carry out their duty and an employee suffers an injury from manual handling, they could be subject to a compensation claim.
Reducing the risk of injury in the workplace
The risk of manual handling injuries can be reduced in a number of ways, including:
- Introducing mechanical aids or automation of task;
- Two (or more) person lifts;
- Reduce the weight of the loads/make loads smaller;
- Ensure loads are easy to grip;
- Make sure the work area is clear of any obstructions;
- Avoid any twisting motions when handling loads;
- Rotate employees between tasks if they are repetitive in nature;
- Regulate the temperature of the workplace (a cold environment can increase the chance of injury); and
- Provide employees with adequate manual handling training.
When it comes to reducing the risk of manual handling injuries, the onus should not only be on the employer, however. Employees are also required under Manual Handling Operations Regulations to use any equipment or resources provided by their employer. This also applies to work done away from the employer’s premises, i.e. builders using machinery at another location.
What should I do if I suffer a manual handling injury at work?
If you have been injured at work as a result of manual handling, it is always advisable to report your symptoms to your employer who may be able to offer you lighter or amended duties. You should use mechanical aids where available or get help to lift or carry heavy loads.
Where possible, it is a good idea to organise the work area to reduce the amount of bending, twisting and stretching required when undertaking manual handling tasks and remember to take frequent breaks from any repetitive jobs.
Have you suffered a manual handling injury at work? Get in touch
If you have been injured whilst performing manual handling duties at work (either through a single accident/lift or over time due to a job that is repetitive in nature), and your employer has not taken adequate steps to reduce the risk of injury, you may be able to claim compensation.
Our workplace injury solicitors advise clients across the UK from our offices in Bristol. To speak to a member of our personal injury team about a manual handling injury, call 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.