The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 rev’d 1999 (MHOR) require employers and employees to reduce the risks of injury from manual handling as far as is reasonably practicable. The employer must carry out a risk assessment on all manual handling tasks that pose an injury risk. These regulations should not be considered in isolation. All other workplace law should be adhered to and the best system put forward to reduce health and safety risks to the employee. Other regulations applicable are the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
MHOR is largely concerned with Manual Handling Risk Assessment & controlling risk.
Employers’ assessments will be ‘suitable and sufficient’ as long as they have considered:
- all the types of manual handling operations
- the physical capability of the employee, PPE, knowledge and training
- risk assessments should not be carried out at the last minute
- it must be considered how varied the manual handling tasks are, such as in construction or maintenance
- it must be considered if handling takes place in more than 1 location, for example, making deliveries
- the extra risk involved in emergency services such as fire fighting, rescue services
The risk assessment should be carried out by a competent person. They must be able to identify the hazards and draw valid and reliable conclusions. They must make a clear record of the assessment and know their own limitations and ask for outside help as needed. Any previous accidents involving manual handling should be identified and be part of the assessment. The assessment should be kept up to date. It should be reviewed if there is a change in the manual handling operations. A record of any injuries should be recorded and steps to review the assessment carried out as needed.
In the effort to reducing manual handling risks, there should be an ergonomic approach i.e considering ‘fitting’ the manual handling operations to the individual, taking into account the task, the load, the working environment and capability of the employee. One may have to engage in mechanical assistance, however, some manual handling may still be needed. Examples of mechanical aids include hoists, trolleys, levers, chutes and handling devices. All handling equipment and PPE should be readily accessible. Basic good manual handling practice includes holding loads close to the body. The handler should be able to move in close to the load before beginning the manual handling operation. If working at floor level is unavoidable, it is preferable to use the leg muscles rather than those of the back. If the task includes lifting to shoulder height, an intermediate step to allow the handler to change hand grip will reduce risk. Injury can be reduced, if there is a controlled method of pushing or pulling, such as trolleys. If a worker is continually doing a manual handling job, breaks should be undertaken.
There are 4 factors where risk can be reduced in manual handling operations, they are the Task, the Load, the Working Environment and Individual Capacity. Briefly they are described below, however more detailed guidance is in the MHOR regulations.
The Task The load must be kept close to the body, otherwise there will be stress on the lower back. Stooping, twisting and squatting should be avoided. The load must be stabilised as much as possible, for example a sudden gust of wind or movement by other people can take the handler by surprise and may cause an injury.
The Load Eventhough the weight of the load is a large factor in its handling approach, other factors to consider are rigidity, resistance and shape. The load may need to be broken down into smaller parts, but in doing so, this should not increase the risk due to handling the smaller parts. When handling and moving people (for example in care homes and hospitals), individual risk assessments should be carried out and recorded in their care plan. When handling hot or cold materials or sharp objects, the load my need to be insulated and PPE used. Equipment used to move loads must have an easy to use braking system in use.
The Working Environment Obstructions such as low work surfaces or restricted headroom may result in a stoop posture which may cause unnecessary strain on the back. Lighting and ventilation should be adequate and floors not slippery. Loads should be clearly maked with their weights. Assessing the working environment is subject to the Health, Safety and Welfare regulations 1992.
Individual Capacity Physical ability declines with age and is subject to gender. Extra care should be taken when designing tasks for the elder age group. All employees should be fully trained and know how to handle loads by automated and mechanical aids as necessary.
Sources hse website