Severn Trent Water
Severn Trent Water improved the safety of 500 employees by introducing a new system for managing manual handling activities. This has greatly reduced injuries suffered, and so reduced lost time.
Half of the RIDDOR Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations injuries for the networks function of Severn Trent water were related to manual handling. One reason for this is that work activities take place over a vast area and often the company has very little control over the working environment, for example woods and gardens.
What did the company do?
- Design - ergonomists assisting with new equipment designs
- Training in manual handling techniques - provided by Pristine Condition, specialists in body mechanics
- A monitoring/coaching/data gathering system - supervisors give feedback to individuals on manual handling activities
- Return to work plans - for individuals returning after time off with an injury
- Medical assessment - to identify whether jobs need to be adjusted if employees have medical conditions affecting their ability to do manual handling
- Effective manual handling assessments -seeking to eliminate or modify the manual handling activity
- Fast track referral system - any employee with back or shoulder pain is immediately referred for medical assessment and physiotherapy
- A large reduction in the numbers of work days lost through manual handling injuries, therefore more staff at work at any one time
- A significant reduction in future liabilities from the civil claims that often follow manual handling injuries
- Reputation -n Severn Trent Water was short-listed in the Personnel Today awards for solutions to health problems
Health and safety benefits
- The annual rolling total of all accidents fell by almost 50% from around 79 before the initiative to around 41
- The proportion of Severn Trent Water's total accidents caused by manual handling has fallen from around 70% to 25%.
'Training employees in manual handling skills, using specialists in body-mechanics in a 'hands-on' situation, was a bold approach. The results have been very good for Severn Trent Water by reducing costs and making work pain-free for employees.'
John Smith, Safety Representative, Unison
'Now we have proved the effectiveness of the approach we will be introducing it into other areas of the business.'
Paul Stephenson, Director, HR Services
As manual handling injuries are one of the 'top 3' causes of injuries in Severn Trent Water the managing director has been very supportive of this initiative. The company firmly believes that health and safety must be driven from the top.
Employees, including a Unison safety representative, are on the focus group that has driven the initiative. The employees affected by the changes in work techniques are encouraged to provide feedback on the changes they have made.
In the first year, Severn Trent Water spent £53,000 on the initiative, covering physiotherapy, ergonomics support, initiative working group staff costs and specialist equipment (as a result of the ergonomics redesign work). Most of these were 'one-off' costs. After the first year, the cost is approximately £2,000 per year for occupational physiotherapy.
The benefits include an anticipated saving of around £19,000 a year by aiming to halve the number of days lost to manual handling injuries. The company also anticipates reducing its civil liabilities (currently around £166,000 a year). Taking account of this, the initiative will pay for itself within the first two years.