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Construction manual handling: inspection and enforcement

Summary

This OG provides guidance applying the EMM for construction manual handling risks. It focuses on common tasks, prioritising those with the potential for significant exposure / risk of ill-health and consequent musculoskeletal disease (MSDs).

Introduction

Manual handling risks are present on every UK construction site. This guidance assists Inspectors in reaching proportionate enforcement decisions to control and manage those construction manual handling risks.

Action

Inspectors should assess on site measures taken to control manual handling risks presented by common construction activities. The assessment should be made in relation to recognised practices to avoid handling risks and taking into account the availability of manual handling aids or systems to reduce the level of risks resulting from the activity. Inspectors should also assess the management approach and commitment to work related MSDs, which is fundamental to risk reduction in this area.

Inspectors should give priority to preventing the risk (ie elimination / control) and focus particularly on common tasks where inadequate control can result in an extreme or substantial risk gap under the EMM.

This guidance sets out steps inspectors should take to assess the risks and apply the EMM. It also details examples of initial enforcement expectation for common construction activities presenting risk of MSDs in relation to expected control standards:

Step 1: Determine risk

The Manual Handling Assessment Charts (MAC Tool) should be used to help determine levels of risk. Inspectors should consider the work activities to establish the extent of risk presented by both lifting loads and carrying/transiting loads around site. Tasks should be considered on an individual basis. Further details to assist with risk determination are found in Appendix 1. Gathering and recording pertinent facts (e.g. unit load weights) and photographs or video clips of the activity is important for supporting any subsequent actions and informing specialist assistance where this is sought.

Inspectors should ensure familiarity with the MAC tool and use this to assist them in determining risk for a particular task to inform decisions regarding any enforcement. Further details are given in Appendix 2.

Step 2: Dealing with immediate risk

Inspectors will encounter ongoing handling activities that present a MEC and immediate risk. These may be purely health related handling risks or safety risks created by the handling activity (e.g. carrying bulky loads up ladders preventing 3 point contact).
Inspectors should deal with these situations as a priority to ensure immediate significant risks are addressed by the duty holder, using enforcement means where necessary. Appendix 2 provides further information on service of prohibition notices.

Step 3: Dealing with other matters through the EMM

Where inadequate control is found but situations do not present immediate risk, inspectors should determine the risk gap and IEE using the Enforcement Management Model (EMM). The basis for applying the EMM is set out in Appendix 2 and utilises the MAC Tool risk information combined with the rationale contained within OC 313/4 to reach an IEE. This approach has been used to determine the IEE for many common construction handling activities and these are contained within Appendix 3.

Given the widely differing nature of construction tasks that may involve risk of MSD, it is impractical to attempt to give an exhaustive list of higher risk activities and their respective IEE. The list at Appendix 3 includes many commonly encountered tasks and should be used as an illustration of the approach to be taken in assessing other activities where risk of MSD appears likely.

Step 4: Enforcement action

Where enforcement action is deemed appropriate, action should be taken against the duty holder that creates and owns the risk. In many instances this may be the sub contractor in control of the task itself. The primary legislation is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR).

Inspectors should also consider enforcement action against other duty holders, such as the Principal Contractor, client or designer for the project. In such cases MHOR should not be used as the above duty holders are not actively conducting the task and as such are not at risk of MSD injury. Instead duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 should be used to frame enforcement. Further information on the approach to take with different duty holders is contained within Appendix 5.

Enforcement notices should be served in accordance with the EMM, Enforcement Policy Statement (EPS) and supporting information in this document. It may be appropriate to serve both a PN and an IN in relation to the same activity. The former to control immediate risk and the latter to secure longer term compliance around management of MSD risk on future duty holder projects.

Pro-active prosecutions should be considered where well established control measures are being ignored for regular tasks creating sustained risk to workers on an ongoing basis.

Enforcement action should always be discussed with Specialist Inspectors prior to taking action, unless sector specific guidance exists, or situations present an immediate risk to workers.

Background

The construction industry has consistently high levels of ill health. Injuries caused by manual handling of loads is a significant contributor to this.

The term MSD covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back. MSDs are not just caused by manipulation of heavy loads, they often result from repeated handling of lighter loads on a sustained basis, placing long term strain on the body. Suitable examples include handling of concrete blocks and bricks or awkward loads such as plasterboard panels.

Many MSD injuries require extended periods of recovery time away from work and can leave the body permanently weakened and liable to repeated injury. Construction workers are at a high risk of suffering an MSD injury due to the physical nature of the work and the chronic nature of risk associated with many construction activities.  

This OG assists inspectors in deciding on the action to take where inadequate control of handling related risks is encountered. It focuses on common tasks, prioritising those with the potential for significant or long term exposure.

Organisation

There are no special organisational requirements.

Further References

Inspectors may also find the following external guidance of use

Contacts

Construction Sector - Health Risk Management Unit

Appendices

Updated 2015-09-30