Manual handling was the biggest cause of injury in the workplace in the plastics sector in 2009/10. Approximately 25% of all RIDDOR reportable injuries in the plastics sector were as a result of moving and handling.
Within plastic industries manual handling is a common activity. Tasks range from filling hoppers with raw product through to moving finished plastic products or baled waste around. In industry it is not necessarily the weight of the product that can be an issue when carrying out manual handling (such as with large reels of film) it can also be the size and shape of the materials being handled that make it difficult and hazardous.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 say in the first instance you should try and avoid manual handling tasks that could cause injury. Sometimes a small change in work practices or in the layout of your workplace can mean that some hazardous manual handling tasks can be stopped altogether.
In some plastic manufacturing companies where granulated polymers are used they choose to have granules bulk delivered into silos or other large containment units. The granules are then "sucked" into the process using a vacuum system. Having bulk deliveries rather than 25kg bags delivered can help to avoid manual handling as the operators no longer need to lift and slit bags into hoppers.
Where it isn’t possible to avoid manual handling you should then assess tasks that could cause injury (referred to as hazardous moving and handling tasks). The assessment should involve looking at the task, the individual, the load and the environment. The idea of the assessment is to identify ways in which the risk of hazardous manual handling tasks can be reduced. This can involve using lifting equipment to reduce the amount of lifting individuals do.