Lifting and carrying objects are among the main causes of accidents in the British workplace, but with some care and diligence most of these injuries are avoidable.
A few simple measures such as clear planning and the use of proper lifting techniques can help reduce the risk of injury and keep you safe and healthy at work.
Although lifting injuries are commonly associated with moving large pieces of equipment, almost anybody can get hurt at work after pulling, pushing, lifting or carrying something in the wrong way.
These type of accidents not only lead to occasional short-term problems but, over time, can lead to serious Musculoskeletal disorders.
What are the Dangers?
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the biggest risk to British workers with more than a million cases reported each year, at a cost more than £5.7 billion.
The type of injuries that can be inflicted by lifting and carrying include Back Pain, problems with joints muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and other soft tissue.
Many MSDs are caused through manual handling and can be brought on by:
- Heavy lifting.
- Repetitive tasks, using the same muscles over and over again.
- Lifting things incorrectly.
- Pushing or pulling heavy loads.
It’s estimated that a third of all reported Workplace Injuries are caused by things like lifting, pulling, carrying and lowering objects.
How can You Prepare?
Initially your employer should have made some preparations for you if the job involves any sort of manual handling. Under the legal regulations employers must:
- Carry out a Risk Assessment to identify any possible hazards.
- Look at other ways of moving the load to avoid manual handling.
- Provide alternative means of carrying out the task, if any are available.
The first thing to think about is whether the load needs to be moved at all. If it really does need to be moved then you should think about any tools or equipment that could help.
For example, a trolley may be a easier and more efficient way of moving the goods than lifting them all by hand. You should also see if it’s possible to make the load smaller or lighter.
If you are required to lift or carry things regularly you should ask for proper training in the correct techniques and health and safety procedures.
The majority of accidents in this area are caused by improper lifting techniques so you should plan each job carefully and make sure you know the best way of moving each particular load.
You should also:
- Know your own limitations because there are no general weight limits that can be applied to everyone.
- Have an emergency plan in case something goes wrong.
- Identify and use any equipment that might help.
- Ensure you have a good grip before lifting.
- Get help from others when lifting heavy loads.
- Avoid repeating the same task over and over again.
What are the Best Lifting Techniques?
All workers have the legal right to be protected from any unnecessary risks so you should be protected from injuries by your employer. If you have any concerns about lifting at work you should consult your supervisor, trade union or staff representative.
Your employer has a legal duty to look after you at work and if your job involves lifting or carrying heavy loads you should have been given some information on the correct procedures.
Each task will involve different techniques depending on what you are carrying, but the Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes comprehensive guidance on manual handling.
The company you work for should provide access to the relevant HSE charts and diagrams that will explain the dos and don’ts for any particular task.