Manual handling relates to the moving of items either by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling. The weight of the item is an important factor, but many other factors can create a risk of injury, for example the number of times you have to pick up or carry an item, the distance you are carrying it, where you are picking it up from or putting it down (picking it up from the floor, putting it on a shelf above shoulder level) and any twisting, bending stretching or other awkward posture you may adopt while doing a task.
Manual handling injuries are part of a wider group of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The term ‘musculoskeletal disorders’ covers any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back. Statistics from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) indicate that MSD cases, including those caused by manual handling, account for more than a third of all work-related illnesses reported each year to the enforcing authorities.
There is evidence that, as well as manual handling, heavy manual labour, awkward postures and a recent or existing injury are all risk factors in the development of MSDs. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR) require employers to manage the risks to their employees. They must:
Medical and scientific knowledge stress the importance of an ergonomic approach to look at manual handling as a whole, taking into account the nature of the task, the load and the working environment, and requiring worker participation.
HSE has developed tools to help employers analyse lifting, carrying and team handling (the MAC tool and the V-MAC tool), repetitive upper limb tasks (the ART tool) and pushing and pulling (the RAPP tool – due out end 2015). Depending on the task, you may find it helpful to use more than one tool, for example you may need to pick up a box of items (lifting), carry it to a workstation (carrying), then distribute the contents to other locations such as pigeon holes or a filing cabinet (repetitive movements).
For more information about each tool click on the following links