Understanding Hazards – Manual Handling

Manual handling covers a number of activities, such as lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing and pulling. These activities are a major cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – such as lower back pain, joint injuries and repetitive strain injuries. Manual handling injuries are the single most common cause of workplace injury and occur across a range of industries, from construction to office work.
Weight of the load

Generally, the heavier the load, the higher the risk of back injury from moving it.

Size and shape of the load

Loads which are small and easy to grasp are generally less of a risk than large, awkwardly-shaped loads.

Posture during manual handling

If you have to lift or move something while you’re in an awkward posture, or while seated, the risks of injury are greater.

Distance you have to lift the load

The higher, lower or further you have to reach to pick up or put down the load, the greater the risk.

How you move while handling something

If you have to twist your body or reach over during manual handling, the risk of injury is higher.

The working environment

Anything which makes the manual handling more difficult increases the risk of injury, such as uneven floors or carrying loads from one level to another.

The capability of the person

People differ in physical strength, height and reach.

LOAD – look at the load itself.  Could the weight, size and shape of the load increase the risk of injury – for example, is it hard to grip?  What needs to change to improve this factor?

INDIVIDUAL – what is it about the person that makes this job more or less safe?  Could some personal characteristics increase the risk of an injury – for example, has the person had training, or do they have any history of back problems?  What needs to change to improve this factor?

TASK – Look at the job you’re doing.  Could manual handling aspects of the job increase the risk of injury – for example, twisting or reaching while lifting?  What needs tio change to improve this factor?

ENVIRONMENT – look at the surroundings where the handling job is to take place.  Could the environment increase the risk of injury – for example, are there objects in the way or uneven surfaces?  What needs to change to improve this factor?