Construction manual handling:
Handling and installing plasterboard can present significant risks of developing musculoskeletal problems. This page tells you how to control this risk and why. You also need to be aware of the general information on manual handling.
What you must do
Follow the Assess, Control and Review model. Pay particular attention to the following things:
Identify and assess: Identify tasks involving the lifting and carrying of plasterboard. Pay particular attention to situations where:
- access is difficult or restricted (eg up stairs or through cluttered areas)
- one person needs to carry larger boards on their own, especially if they need to stoop to lift them
- work involves ‘special’ thermal or acoustic boards that may weigh up to 50Kg each
- boards need to be fixed above shoulder height or from access platforms
Follow the general precautions for manual handling risks. In addition, you should also consider the issues below.
- Specifying – ensure your suppliers provide boards with the unit weight clearly marked on them, especially for heavier acoustic or thermal ‘special’ boards. Choose the lightest most manageable board possible to satisfy the specification required
- Loading out – it is important to consider how you will get the plasterboard to where you need to use it:
- mechanically deliver boards where possible (eg by telehandler) before external openings are closed up. Plan sufficient scaffold loading bays and access points into the building
- use trolleys etc wherever possible when moving boards by hand. Pivoting board tables can be loaded mechanically and powered pallet trucks can be used over concrete floors
- consider creating letterbox style floor openings or other internal access points to prevent the need to carry boards up stairs or through doorways
- where boards have to be carried by hand, ensure it is a two-person operation. Use manual handling aids such as carrying handles to help with holding the boards.
- Positioning equipment – use ceiling lifts and adjustable props for positioning boards overhead. For lower wall panels, use a foot operated board lifter to avoid stooping.
- Cutting boards – avoid cutting boards that are stood on their edge. Use work trestles or a pivoting board table instead to reduce repeated strain to the lower limbs from bending.
- Tools – ensure lightweight fixing tools are used to prevent fatigue.
- Job rotation – alternate between measuring and fixing when working in pairs. This limits exposure to highly repetitive tasks.
Maintain: Ensure that handling aids and panel positioning equipment is kept in good working order.
Supervise: Check site working practices to ensure that handling aids are being used and procedures are being followed. Keep routes free of obstructions so that trolleys and other aids can be used effectively
What you should know
MSD injuries from handling plasterboard do not usually occur because of a ‘one-off’ lift. The injuries usually arise from repeated poor lifting practices and posture during the handling and installation of boards.
It is difficult to eliminate all of the lifting and carrying risks associated with installing plasterboard panels. This makes it very important to adopt the correct control strategies.