Risk factors associated with pushing and pulling loads
There are a number of risk factors associated with pushing and pulling of loads, which can be categorised into Task, Individual, Load and Environment (TILE). The following are some risk factors within these categories that could contribute to a pushing and pulling related injury. You should consider these risk factors when carrying out your risk assessments.
- Large amounts of effort are required to start or stop the load moving or to keep it moving.
- The risk increases over longer distances or at high speed.
- Obstacles can create risks as workers try to avoid colliding with them.
- The worker needs to move suddenly or twist to manoeuvre the load.
- Repetitive pushing and pulling without sufficient recovery time.
- The position of the hands should be comfortable for the worker. They are best positioned between hip and shoulder height.
- The worker has to push or pull the load with only one hand.
- Workers have different characteristics and capabilities. For example, a tall worker may have to adopt an awkward posture to push a trolley with low handles, while a shorter worker may have difficulty seeing over the load.
- Individual factors such as pregnancy may temporarily reduce the amount of force a worker can safely handle.
- The task may require unusual capability. If this is the case, think about who should carry out the task and how.
- Specialised training or instruction may be needed.
- The task may pose a risk to those with a physical or learning difficulty, or to new and young workers.
- Consider the weight of the load and the weight of the equipment being used by the worker.
- Good handholds will help apply force and control the load.
- Ensure the load is sufficiently stable for negotiating any slopes, corners or rough surfaces.
- Plan the route and ensure the worker can safely see over the load.
- Check if the route is wide enough for the load and wheeled equipment.
- Wheeled equipment needs suitable and well-maintained wheels or castors. Any brakes need to be effective.
- Steep slopes and rough surfaces can increase the amount of force required to push/pull a load.
- Environmental factors such as temperature, lighting and air currents can increase the risks of pushing/pulling.
- Floor surfaces that are clean and dry can help reduce the force needed to move a load.
- Lack of space can force the worker to adopt awkward postures.
- Handling in confined spaces and narrow passages/doorways could cause a trapping/abrasion injury.
As well as the above, there are other factors which should be considered:
- Ensure the correct equipment is provided for the task and it is fit for purpose.
- There should be a maintenance programme and a well-promoted fault-reporting system.
- Ensure that the wheels suit the flooring and environment, eg are the wheels on the device suited to a hot environment or carpets?
- Look at the handle height in relation to the different users as this can be a risk factor for their posture. Vertical or sloped handles may help.
- If the equipment has no brakes or poor/ineffective brakes it could be difficult to stop.
- Is posture hindered by personal protective equipment? If so, is it really needed or can the task be done in a different way?
Work organisation and psychosocial factors
- These affect the worker's psychological reaction to work and the environment, eg high workload demands, short deadlines and lack of control over working methods.
- Poor communication between managers and employees can lead to an unhappy workforce which could have an effect on production.
- Organisational 'change' can affect the motivation of the workforce.