Manual handling tasks are those which involve the movement of items, people, loads etc. by way of lifting, lowering, pulling, pushing or carrying.
Whenever possible, employers have a duty to avoid the need for manual handling. This means that an employer must ask always the question, "Can this job be done in an entirely different way?"
Some examples of thinking differently
- Employers must check whether or not there is a need to move an item at all - for example, if an item to be worked on is heavy, unwieldy, difficult to grasp, hot, cold, sharp or if the contents of the item are likely to move, then perhaps any work should be carried out with the item in situ.
- When setting up a workplace employers must also consider whether or not raw materials can be piped/transported more easily to different points on site rather than taking/carrying loads to the raw material. For example, instead of transporting a patient to receive treatment in a specific room, could the treatment be brought to the patient, for instance by using oxygen points in walls?
- Consider the possibility of automating a manual handling task. There are a number of mechanisms or handling aids which can be used to aid or avoid lifting. These include items such as conveyor belts, pallet trucks, electric or hand-powered hoists or lift trucks. However, employers must be careful to fully assess the new risks associated with mechanisation of a process or task.
Risk assessments are key
As in all workplaces, adequate risk assessment is key to maintaining employee safety in respect of manual handling.
While it is not necessary to assess every lifting task, for example, lifting a small box of goods onto a supermarket shelf, it is advisable to ensure staff receive training regarding best practice in manual handling techniques.
However, the associated heavy task – moving the pallet which contains the small box of goods – will require a risk assessment to ensure employees' health is not put at risk and the most suitable method for distributing the load is employed.
Have you been injured in a manual handling accident?
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Our personal injury compensation lawyers can investigate and advise you on the best way to proceed.