Health topic - Manual handling

Manual handling continues to cause significant numbers of injuries for workers in the paper, corrugated and recovered paper industries.  Although it is unlikely that manual handling injuries will result in a fatality, for those affected the pain, suffering and sometimes debilitating effects of these injuries should not be underestimated.

Manual handling tasks are common including tasks such as moving paper/bales/stacks of board, removing broke, manoeuvring machinery parts, feeding the web and feed board into conversion machinery.  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 paper) it can also be the size and shape of the materials being handled that make it difficult and hazardous.

The costs to business once a manual handling injury has happened can be significant.  In addition to the obvious costs such as civil claims for damages, there are often significant hidden costs arising from production delays, investigation costs, overtime working, loss of experience, clerical and supervisors' time, hiring and training of replacement staff and even loss of goodwill and of corporate image.

The Law

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 paper, board and recovered paper companies tasks have been mechanised to reduce the risks. Lifting equipment for reels for example has reduced the need for workers to push reels around (remember under the regulations include pushing and pulling tasks also).

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.

Some manual handling tasks and possible solutions in papermaking mills can be found below.

Broke handling


Broke handling is a well known problem in the papermaking process both handling loose broke and in the finishing processes as reel broke.

Handling broke can result in a number of staff carrying out repetitive manual handling tasks that can cause severe back pain and prolonged sick leave relating to back injuries.

A solution

The installation of a hydraulic swivel head grab can be one solution to this manual handling task. The grab can be capable of lifting two to three rolls of broke with the extended arm to allow accurate placement of the load on a feed conveyor. This can lead to the whole operation being carried out by one person reducing staff involvement and time spent carrying out this task.

Broke handling problems can sometimes be solved by:

  • eliminating all broke! (or reducing it and gaining other business benefits)
  • installing conveyors (under the machine)
  • using buggies, clamp trucks, fork-lift trucks
  • using reel splitters
  • using unwind stands
  • eliminating offcuts
  • using a deckle machine.

Ream handling


Ream wrapping is now automated in many mills. However, hand wrapping is still sometimes necessary, especially when a range of different products is produced. This is an extremely repetitive task involving weights in the range of 25 kg and paper size up to A3, and involves lifting the product through a range of heights from floor level to waist height usually with a twisting movement.

A solution

One possible solution to reduce the risk is to use an adjustable lift. This allows operatives to work at waist height by removing the need to lift the product from floor level as the stack reduces in height. The task design can also be considered to reduce risks.

Other ream handling solutions include:

  • hydraulic work tables
  • scissor lift tables
  • spring-loaded rise and fall tables
  • air tables for ease of movement of reams from one workstation to another.

Small reels/biscuits


The handling of small reels or teales or biscuits is a particular problem in tissue mills. The work involves the regular lifting, carrying and loading of reels into tissue rewinders/conversion machines.

A solution

A possible solution for handling small reels can be a lifting device combined with a fixed hoist.  There are now many manual handling lifting aids that can help with this type of task so it would be worthwhile investigating lifting aids on the market to see how they can help with this task.

Shell removal


The removal of shells from reels has traditionally been carried out by two operators - one holds the reel while the other pulls on the shell. This has resulted in many injuries over the years.

A solution

One manufacturer solved this problem by modifying the shells to include an eye bolt for the operator to attaché a wire clip onto. The shell is then pulled out of the reel under power. This modification to the shell resulted in eliminating the manual handling problem completely and reducing the time taken to do this task.

Fitting cores to shafts


Operators have to fit a core on to the shaft. This is an awkward task because the operator has to hold the shaft with one hand while trying to slide the black cover on to the shaft with the other hand.

A solution

A very simple solution to this problem was found by providing two stands to rest the shaft on while sliding the core tube on.

Handling raw materials


Although much of the raw material for the papermaking process is added automatically, sacks and drums still have to be regularly moved in most mills.

A solution

Manual handling aids such as ergonomically designed trolley's for drums or trolleys for rolls can be used to reduce or eliminate the risk.  Investigate and use different types of lifting aids for putting raw materials into the process as part of your task assessment process.

Used to transport 45 kg drums of dyes.

The addition of the two extra wheels makes the trolley much easier to move.

Maintenance activities


A wide range of maintenance activities cause a significant number of injuries each year in. Some maintenance activities require detailed assessment. Other maintenance problems can, however, be dealt with fairly simply.

A solution

One solution could be to look at correct storage for heavy or bulky maintenance items.  Store new machine parts directly on pallets so they can be transported by fork-lift truck.

Other solutions can include:

  • Fitting wheels to the work tables used by maintenance workers
  • Use variable height trolleys for versatility.

Find out more

Is this page useful?

Updated: 2024-02-09