Every year, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) gets flooded with thousands of work-related claims for strain, carrying, and lifting injuries. In particular, about 20% of farm related accidents are caused by improper manual handling.

Dive into this article as we uncover the critical role manual handling training plays in safeguarding health and boosting productivity across healthcare, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing industries. Plus, discover how customising this training for specific job roles could be the game-changer your workplace needs.

Manual Handling in Healthcare

Manual handling is a critical aspect of daily operations in the healthcare industry, where healthcare workers such as nurses and support workers are often required to move and lift patients as part of their duties. This task, if not performed correctly, can lead to significant injuries for both the healthcare worker and the patient. Therefore, manual handling training becomes indispensable in healthcare settings to ensure the safety and well-being of both staff and patients.

Manual handling training in healthcare is designed to impart knowledge and skills necessary for the safe lifting and movement of patients. This training encompasses several key areas:

Safe lifting techniques

Central to manual handling training is teaching healthcare workers the correct methods for lifting and transferring patients to prevent common injuries, particularly to the back and musculoskeletal system. This includes learning to lift with the legs rather than the back, keeping the load close to the body, and avoiding twisting movements during lifting.

Use of aids

The training also emphasises the use of mechanical aids like hoists, slide sheets, and transfer boards. These aids are designed to facilitate patient movement safely and reduce the physical strain on healthcare workers. Proper training ensures that workers can efficiently use these devices, selecting the right aid for each situation to enhance safety.

Risk assessment

Another crucial component of manual handling training is risk assessment. Healthcare workers are trained to identify potential hazards and assess risks in patient handling. This involves evaluating the patient’s condition, the task’s nature, the environment, and the availability of mechanical aids to choose the safest handling method.

Manual Handling in Construction

In the construction industry, workers are required to engage in lifting, carrying, and transporting heavy or bulky materials. This aspect of the job can pose significant risks if not managed correctly, including the potential for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are among the leading causes of worker disability and absenteeism in this sector. To mitigate these risks, comprehensive manual handling training is essential for all workers involved in construction activities.

Correct lifting postures

Proper lifting techniques are fundamental. Workers should learn to assess an object’s weight, maintain a stable base with their feet, bend their knees (not their back), and keep loads close to their body. Such practices help avoid immediate injuries and long-term musculoskeletal issues.

Use of equipment

Leveraging mechanical aids like wheelbarrows, forklifts, and cranes can significantly reduce manual lifting requirements, enhancing safety and efficiency. Workers must be trained in these tools’ proper operation to prevent misuse, which could lead to accidents.

Team lifting

For heavy or unwieldy items, team lifting is essential. This method emphasises coordination and communication to ensure safe and synchronised lifting and transportation. It’s crucial for preventing individual and collective injuries.

Manual Handling in Agriculture

Manual handling in the agricultural sector involves a wide range of activities that include lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and other physical tasks. These tasks are integral to farm operations, from handling livestock to transporting feed, equipment, and produce. While manual labour is a fundamental part of farming, it also poses significant health risks if not managed properly.

Challenges and risks

Agricultural workers face various challenges and risks when it comes to manual handling. The nature of the work often involves repetitive motions, heavy lifting, and working in awkward positions, which can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, including strains, sprains, and chronic pain. Additionally, the outdoor environment adds further challenges, such as working in extreme weather conditions, which can exacerbate the risk of injury.

Key risks include MSDs, slips, trips, and falls due to uneven terrain and slippery surfaces, and fatigue. Additionally, long working hours without adequate rest breaks can lead to physical and mental fatigue, impairing judgment and increasing the risk of injury.

Best practices

To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to implement best practices which include:

  • Training and education. Providing workers with training on proper lifting techniques and the use of mechanical aids can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
  • Use of mechanical equipment. Whenever possible, use tools and machinery to minimise physical labor. Examples include trolleys, conveyor belts, and forklifts.
  • Proper planning. Organise work to minimise heavy lifting and repetitive tasks. This can involve rotating jobs among workers to reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Rest breaks. Ensure workers have sufficient breaks to recover from physical exertion, particularly in extreme weather conditions.

Manual Handling in Manufacturing

Manual handling in the manufacturing sector is complex, encompassing the movement, lifting, and transportation of machinery and goods. With the high risk of injury associated with improper techniques, it is imperative for manufacturing facilities to invest in rigorous training. These programs not only equip workers with the necessary skills to perform their tasks safely but also introduce measures to optimise the workplace for human efficiency.

Ergonomic practices

Ergonomics plays a pivotal role in minimising the risk of injuries during manual handling tasks. By designing workstations and tasks that accommodate human physical capabilities, manufacturers can significantly reduce the strain on workers. Conducting ergonomic assessments to identify potential risk factors and redesigning workstations to align with ergonomic principles, issuing adjustable equipment that can be tailored to fit different worker heights and reach, and rotating tasks among workers to prevent repetitive strain and fatigue are just some of the improvements that can be implemented in such workplaces to ensure efficiency.

Safe material handling techniques

Manual handling training in manufacturing may involve educating workers on the safe handling of materials, including:

  • Training workers on the correct methods to lift and carry materials, focusing on using the legs rather than the back to lift and encouraging team lifts for heavier items.
  • Educating workers on safe storage practices, including proper stacking and placement of materials to prevent falls and facilitate easier handling.
  • Ensuring workers are equipped with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves and safety shoes, to protect against potential hazards.

Leveraging mechanical assistance

To reduce the physical demands of manual handling, the use of mechanical aids such as forklifts and conveyors, automated handling systems, and lifting aids such as hoists and pallet jacks are often required to facilitate the safe and efficient movement and storage of goods.

Manual Handling for Occupational Safety in Every Sector

Proper manual handling is essential to workplace safety across industries. By focusing on manual handling training in healthcare, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing settings, and customising the training to specific job roles, you can significantly reduce the risk of injuries and improve efficiency. Embracing comprehensive manual handling training programs is not just a regulatory compliance issue but a strategic investment in your workforce’s health and your business’s success.

Talk to Phoenix Healthcare about our Manual Handling Training today!