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The Importance of Manual Handling

Manual handling is important in everyday work, no matter what type of job you do. The trouble is, not everyone understands manual handling, and several myths always seem to be floating around when it comes to this particular aspect of health and safety.

To help you understand more about manual handling and what it means for the everyday workplace, let’s try to debunk the top ten manual handling myths.

What is the most common problem associated with manual handling?

One of the biggest problems with manual handling is a lack of understanding about its importance and how to properly approach it. This may be due to inadequate training, or it could be due to a variety of myths that are out in the world around manual handling.

Whatever it is, if you don’t get manual handling right, then the implications for you, your health, and those around you could be a major issue.

What is the percentage of workplace injuries caused by manual handling?

Many of the injuries and accidents that occur in the workplace can be avoided. Around 21% of these can be directly linked to manual handling, or more importantly, to manual handling not being corrected and followed. This could be during the lifting, carrying, or moving of objects.

How many pieces of legislation cover manual handling in the UK?

There are two main pieces of legislation here in the UK that are linked to manual handling, or that have at least some focus on manual handling. The main one is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This is the main piece and broadly covers what obligations employers have to not only their employees but also the wider general public.

The other piece of legislation that relates to manual handling is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. These provide more specific guidelines that relate to manual handling in the workplace.

Top Ten Manual Handling Myths

So, let’s take a look at the top ten myths and see whether there is any truth to them.

Myth 1: Lifting with Your Back is Safe

Image of worker moving goods Learn Q Debunking the Top Ten Manual Handling Myths blogThere seems to be a common misconception that when it comes to lifting something, it is best to lift it with your back. The trouble with this is that even the lightest of things can injure you if they are lifted in the wrong way, especially when it comes to your back.

Improper lifting techniques can cause several issues, both in the short and long term. The most common risks that experts link to improper lifting techniques are:

  • Ligament sprains
  • Muscular injuries
  • Joint injuries
  • Hernias
  • Disc injuries

All of these include when you decide to lift using your back. Which should be enough to make you want to learn how to ensure that you are lifting properly.

To properly lift a load, you need to ensure that you always lift with your legs. You should have bent knees and use your hips to start the lift. The back should be bent slightly, with it gradually straightening as you stand. You should also avoid twisting the back, as this can also cause an injury.

By using this proper lifting technique, you place less strain on your back, which can reduce your chance of injury. As well as this, you are also spreading out the stress on your body from actually lifting a load and balancing out between a variety of joints and muscles.

Myth 2: Manual Handling Training is Unnecessary

Sometimes during training, we can ask ourselves whether or not it has been worth sitting through. This is often applied to manual handling training.

Many people believe that any formal training that relates to manual handling is entirely unnecessary. However, this is not the case.

According to studies, the person could have avoided up to 75% of manual handling-related injuries if they had known (and followed) safe lifting limits and techniques. This is a huge number of injuries that could be prevented simply by knowing what is right when it comes to manual handling.

This means that it is incredibly important to make sure that appropriate manual handling training is delivered to everyone in a setting. After all, they never know when they may need to lift a load and therefore put themselves at risk of injury.

This can be achieved by creating a programme of training to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries related to manual handling.

Myth 3: One Size Fits All Approach

While there are many parts of life where a one-size-fits-all approach can work, manual handling is not one of them.

It seems to be a common misconception that to deliver manual handling, there is a universal approach that can be followed. This can cover a range of scenarios and situations and still offer protection to the person who is doing the lifting.

This is not the case.

Every task is different, and while many of the fundamentals of manual handling (such as proper lifting technique basics) are going to apply, this is not always going to be in the same way. To ensure that in every task the people who are going to be lifting are properly protected, there needs to be an individual risk assessment carried out.

Having an individual risk assessment will highlight the potential issues that can occur within the lifting task and what needs to be done to offer proper protection to those who are lifting. This may include providing specialist equipment or perhaps providing targeted training.

Myth 4: Only Heavy Objects Pose a Risk

One of the most common misconceptions that seems to be out there in the world of manual handling is that the weight of the object changes the risk of injury.

Of course, an item that is heavy may place more strain on your body, but it is vital to remember that even the lightest of loads can cause injury if not handled in the right way.

Some seemingly low-risk activities can end up causing you some form of injury. This includes repetitive tasks, lifting or moving that require you to maintain an awkward posture, or lifting that is time-pressured.

When you consider that any type of load, small, large, or heavy, can cause an issue when it comes to manual handling, it is easy to see why you should ensure that you treat every single load with care and proper attention.

Myth 5: Equipment Eliminates the Need for Proper Technique

To make our jobs easier, we have created equipment and machinery that take on some of the brunt of the tasks that we need to perform. However, while this is useful for many of us, having this equipment at our disposal has led to some misunderstandings.

Many people seem to believe that when you use equipment to help you move things and lift loads, this means that you don’t have to worry about how you are lifting and moving those items.

This is not the case. There have been instances when using equipment without proper technique has led to an accident. An accident that then causes some kind of injury to that person.

Rather than solely relying on the equipment to do the hard work, the best way to approach manual handling is to make sure that you combine these useful tools with the proper technique. That way, you are keeping yourself (and those around you) safe while also making the job that you need to do easier.

Myth 6: Manual Handling Guidelines are Redundant

Image of worker moving pallets for Learn Q Debunking the Top Ten Manual Handling Myths blogWe know that having lots of rules, regulations, and guidelines to follow can make things trickier for us all, however, it is important to remember that those guidelines are there for a reason.

The Health and Safety Executive created these manual handling guidelines as a way to remind everyone what they can do to keep themselves safe. This may be the proper way to lift an object, or what equipment can be used (and how it can be used) to make lifting safer and easier.

As we have already looked at, manual handling training can help reduce the rate of accidents and injuries that occur. The same is true for the guidelines that much of this training relates to.

Of course, many people feel that people should be in charge of their understanding of manual handling. But this is not the case; there is always room for error, and this is something that those guidelines look to change.

Myth 7: Injuries are Immediate and Obvious

There are going to be times when injuries that have occurred due to improper manual handling are immediate and obvious. However, it’s important to recognise that this is not always the case.

There are just as likely to be times (if not more so) when the injuries that occur are not immediately obvious and take time to appear.

This includes issues such as musculoskeletal disorders. These include sprains, strains, and tears, as well as things such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

These are the types of injuries that can worsen gradually, often without you noticing the discomfort or pain until much later on. They are also the types of injuries that can get worse, or that can occur in the first place, due to repetitive motions and tasks being performed.

If you suspect that you may have an injury that has resulted from manual handling, then you must see a medical professional about it. Not only can they help diagnose the issue, but they can also give you advice and guidance on what you should do next.

Myth 8: Only Certain Industries are at Risk

It has to be said that some specific industries are more at risk of manual handling injuries, simply due to the nature of the work that they do every day. However, this has led to the misconception that there are only risks in those specific industries and none in others.

This is not the case. Any industry, no matter what they do, the services that they offer, or the everyday tasks that they carry out, is at risk of manual handling injuries.

Manual handling is important in the workplace, and everyone needs to recognise the importance of identifying possible risks and thinking about how they can be best reduced.

You should remember that manual handling injuries are not always caused by the weight or size of the item. More often than not, the issue is how they are lifted, which means that you can mitigate the problems simply by having the relevant level of training.

People have even been injured by lifting an envelope off of the floor, which means that anything can (and does) happen in the world of manual handling.

Myth 9: Young and Fit Employees are Immune

Another common misconception when it comes to manual handling is that the fitness, age, and mobility of the person are going to have an impact on the likelihood of them obtaining a manual handling injury.

While greater care should always be taken with older people, due to the possible injury risk, young people are in no way immune.

Manual handling injuries are not something that impacts you because of the level of fitness that you have; they happen because you are not lifting or moving an item properly. This is something that can and does impact everyone, no matter their age or their level of fitness. The best way to stop this from happening is to ensure that they have the correct level of manual handling training and knowledge.

Myth 10: Ergonomics is an Optional Extra

It is disappointing to learn just how many people (including business owners) believe that ergonomics is something that should be seen as an optional extra when it comes to manual handling.

The opposite is true, and ergonomic items should always be seen as a key part of manual handling and keeping people safe.

Ergonomics are designed to make everyday, often repetitive tasks safer and more comfortable. While they cannot prevent manual handling injuries entirely (we have already highlighted how this is more often than not down to the person themselves following correct procedures and techniques), what they can do is make sure that any tasks that are carried out are done in as much comfort as possible.

Not only this, but when a task feels more comfortable to do, there is a good chance that the person doing it will be more efficient in what they do. Which is always a good idea for business.

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