If you list, push, pull, carry, or move something or someone at work, there is always a risk of hazardous manual handling. It is, in fact, the biggest cause of manual handling injuries in Australian workplace.
What is Manual Handling?
Manual handling covers a wide range of workplace activities. These include lifting, pushing/pulling, lowering, holding, throwing, and carrying. It is also in forms of repetitive tasks such as typing, packing, assembling, using hand tools, and operating machinery and equipment.
It important to note that not all manual handling tasks are hazardous. However, since most jobs involve some form of manual handling, most workers are at risk of injury at some point.
A task or work activity is considered hazardous if it involves the following:
- Repeated, sustained, or high force
Use of high forces can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) even if they are not repetitive or sustained. It only means that any tasks involving high force should be prevented as possible, even if it is done occasionally or for short periods. The longer and the higher the force – the greater the risk of manual handling injuries.
2. Sustained awkward posture
Awkward posture is when any part of your body is placed in an uncomfortable or unnatural position.
A workplace designed without consideration of the risks from hazardous manual tasks may impose awkward posture on workers. Best example for this is the bent and twisted positions with shoulders raise and the need to reach or carry loads for long periods.
3. Repetitive movements
Repetitive movements refers to the repeated use of force over a period of time to move or support an object. These include lifting and stacking goods into a pallet and handling bricks when bricklayers. Doing repeated tasks frequently can injure the upper limb areas of the body.
4.Exposure to sustained vibration
Prolonged exposure of the hand, arm, and whole body to vibration increases the risk of MSD and other health problem. The risk increases as the duration and amplitude of vibration is at its highest.
The most common source of work-related vibration are driving (particularly on rough roads) and prolonged use of hand power tools.
5.Handling people or animals.
The physical and behavioral nature of both people and animal can be a source of manual handling injuries. The unpredictable movements that requires sudden force to control is the main cause for this risk.
Unstable, unbalance, or hard to hold loads
Carrying an unbalance or unstable loads may lead to uneven loading of the muscles. This can cause muscle fatigue due to the center of gravity of the object is not placed in the middle of the worker’s body.
Control the risks
To avoid such risks, we recommend following list to control hazardous manual handling risks. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 has imposed what they call “hierarchy of controls.” These guidelines set out specific risk control measures to be used in order.
- Eliminate the risk completely
Try to remove the task/action that can cause injury without affecting the work process.
- Changes in the workplaces/change of work
Changes in the workplace layout, environment, or work systems can reduce the risk of injury. Use different tools or make use of mechanical aids. If possible, do administrative controls and change the way people work.
- Use of Personal Protective Equipment
Protect workers with the use of PPEs.
- Get Trained
Provide all employees the information, instructions, and training on how to reduce risk of injuries.
We lift things all the time, be it in the workplace or even at home. We carry things often and it’s normal. But things go wrong and when they do, the consequences can be serious. And in some cases, life changing.
Involving your workers in health and safety issues can result in a safer workplace. That’s why training is an important part of risk management. In all situations, employers must provide Manual Handling Training to workers to eliminate workplace hazards and make people healthier and safer.