The Manual Handling Operations Regulations define manual handling as ‘any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force’, where load includes any person or animal.
The most recent survey of self-reported work-related illness estimated that 1.1 million people in
The vast majority of reported manual handling accidents resulted in an over-three-day injury, most commonly a sprain or strain, often of the back.
The main aim of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations is to prevent injury, not only to the back, but to any part of the body.
Modern medical and scientific knowledge stresses the importance of an ergonomic approach to remove or reduce the risk of manual handling injury. Ergonomics is sometimes described as ‘fitting the job to the person, rather than the person to the job’. The ergonomic approach looks at manual handling as a whole. It takes into account a range of relevant factors, including the nature of the task, the load, the working environment and individual capability, and requires worker participation. This approach is central to the European Directive on manual handling, and to the Regulations.
The Regulations establish a clear hierarchy of measures, i.e.:
(a) avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable. This may be done by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.
(b) make a suitable and sufficient assessment of any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
(c) reduce the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Where possible, mechanical assistance should be provided, for example, a sack trolley or hoist. Where this is not reasonably practicable, then changes to the task, the load and the working environment should be explored.
Where it is not possible to avoid a manual handling operation, then employers have to assess any risks to the health of their employees. However a full assessment of every manual handling operation could be a major undertaking and might involve wasted effort. To enable assessment work to be concentrated where it is most needed, Appendix 3 of the Regulations gives numerical guidelines which can be used as an initial filter to help identify those manual handling operations which need a more detailed examination. However, even manual handling operations which are within the guidelines should be avoided or made less demanding wherever it is reasonably practicable to do so. The guidelines should not be regarded as precise recommendations. Where there is doubt, a more detailed assessment should be made.
Advice on manual handling can be obtained from the Health and Safety Team, Tŷ Elai, Williamstown, CF40 1NY, telephone number 01443 425546.