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Mind Your Back! Your Quick & Easy Guide to Manual Handling
Posted by David Cant on August 12, 2014
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Simple Guide to Manual Handling and Lifting explained

cartoon charcters shown lifting a box the correct and incorrect wayIt’s not always the big dramatic injury risks, like plummeting through a roof, that need to be watched out for – though they get the most attention.

More everyday pain, discomfort, and inability to work is caused by simple things done often – like a bit of lifting the wrong way, too much twisting, or trying to move something a bit too big.

Have You Experienced Musculoskeletal Disorder?

Not surprisingly, the construction industry has the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) in all the UK.  MSD is basically injury to muscles, joints, tendons or the spine, leading to all sorts of aches and pains.  And sometimes permanent disability.

The biggest culprit?  Manual handling.

This basically means lifting, pushing and pulling, lowering ad carrying.  And the workers most at risk are scaffolders, bricklayers, ground workers, electricians, demolition workers and general labourers.  So pretty much everyone in the industry.

“I’m in Construction – how the heck do I avoid lifting things!?”

Fair question.

First, like all health & safety, be aware.  Just knowing which activities should be come with some care – and more importantly, your workers knowing – will reduce the chances of injury!

Risky Jobs & Working Conditions

Injuries come from three things in combination;

–        Your physical ability

–        The weight or force needed for the job

–        The environment, including the weather

The 9 big MSD culprits

Watch out for these, and start thinking along the same lines – you’ll notice plenty of risks on your work site!

  1. Bending and twisting, common in plastering
  2. Lifting, carrying, lowering heavy materials, like roof tiles
  3. Pushing and pulling heavy things, like barrows
  4. Smaller but very repetitive tasks, like brick, block, kerb or slab-laying, pipe work, etc.
  5. Working in awkward positions, like crouching or bending
  6. Working in restricted places, like tucked up in a roof void
  7. Time pressure on jobs, leading workers to take risks and try to use brute force
  8. Lack of mechanical assistance
  9. Working too long without breaks

You can see these conditions are quite easy to watch out for once you start taking them seriously.  And when you educate your workers to a degree where they start taking it seriously too, then you’ll suddenly see cases of MSD dropping quickly.

As always the HSE has a very detailed five-step procedure to mitigating and limiting manual handling risks as much as possible. You can go through it here:  MSD and Manual Handling

But in the mean time, here are;

Six Quick Top Tips for Knocking MSD on the Head

  1. Choose lighter materials where possible. Avoid the heavy stuff if you can. This goes for bags of things too, like cement and sand.
  2. Use mechanical aids wherever possible, and encourage their use and careful maintenance.  Use lifting equipment for any lifting.
  3. Plan the site layout in advance to avoid the need for much lifting and carrying. For example, have loads placed next to machinery instead of across the site.
  4. Think about which workers are best suited to which jobs, considering size, strength and training.
  5. Avoid all repetitive lifting where possible.  Such as moving heavy blocks or lintels.
  6. Train your workers really well, in all of this and how to use the right mechanical or machine aids.

There you have it.  If you apply these with care, you’ll do a great deal of good.

And your workers’ backs will thank you for it too!

Key Takeaways

  • Muscoskeletal Disorder is very common in construction. The main cause is manual handling.  Especially manual handling done badly.
  • Watch out for repetitive movements, and movement that requires great bodily force.
  • Choose lighter materials, prepare in advance so lifting will be avoided, use mechanical aids.
  • Train your workers well!

Now it’s your turn

Do you have any questions about manual lifting?

Or have you implemented procedures to reduce the risk on your sites?

Let us know, we’d love to chat.

About 

David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner with a brain you can pick. Fluent in practical advice. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the Director of life at Veritas Consulting.

You can find him on - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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