RR939 - An investigation into mechanical aids and automation for reducing the risks of repetitive handling tasks involving the upper limbs

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produced a document (INDG 398) that provides practical advice on mechanical aids that reduce the risk of heavy manual handling. However, there is little information on the mechanisation and automation available to reduce upper limb disorder risks that can arise with repetitive handling (ie handling light loads at least every few seconds). HSE guidance 'Upper limb disorders in the workplace' suggests a hierarchical approach to risk reduction and asks 'can machinery do the highly repetitive functions and leave more varied jobs for the workers?' However, no further information on this important risk reduction measure is provided. As such, it is difficult for HSE and Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) specialists to advise Inspectors and duty holders on whether mechanisation or automation is a reasonably practicable control option to reduce upper limb disorder risks.

The introduction of the ART tool has provided inspectors and duty holders with a risk assessment tool where tasks that predominately use the upper limbs can be assessed. This is likely to lead to an increased knowledge and awareness of ULD risk factors. However, there is little guidance for inspectors and duty holders regarding reasonably practicable control measures where the tasks are performed manually and there is no mechanisation or automation in place. The aim of this document is to provide practical examples of risk control measures used in industry.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2021-04-23