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29th December 2014

Manual handling risk assessment

Manual Handling Risk AIn my previous article we reviewed the need for manual handling intervention in the workplace. Manual handling is a part of our daily lives and it would be near impossible to eliminate all such activities. Basic daily tasks such as lifting a box, moving a table or supporting a service user all involve manual handling to some degree. Where manual handling cannot be eliminated the next step is to carry out a risk assessment on manual handling tasks that cause a significant risk.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 state:
4(1) Each employer shall –
(b) where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid the need for his employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured –
(i) make a suitable and sufficient assessment of all such manual handling operations to be undertaken by them…

Assessing risk

The manual handling risk assessment should be ‘suitable and sufficient’ and cover all the different types of manual handling operations that workers are required to carry out. When developing manual handling risk assessments, employers should first consult with staff in order to gain an understanding of the manual handling risks within each work activity. Observing work activites will also help when developing the assessment. Safety representatives can make effective contributions by sharing their knowledge with the manual handling assessor. Effective communication at all levels of the workforce in the development of a manual handling risk assessment will lead to a more robust risk assessment. The HSE website and QCS documentation policies have excellent guidance for manual handling risk assessments.

The approach to manual handling risk assessments

A structured approach should be taken during the assessment of risk. Assess and review the task, the load, the working environment and individual capability. Where possible, use mechanical assistance such as trolleys or lifts so that whilst some manual handling is necessary, bodily forces are applied more efficiently, reducing the risk of injury. The questions to ask when considering the task, the load, the working environment and individual capability are listed below.

The task

When assessing the task, consider whether it involves:

  • a load held or manipulated at a distance from the trunk
  • twisting the trunk
  • stooping
  • reaching upwards
  • considerable lifting or lowering distances
  • considerable carrying distances
  • considerable pushing or pulling of the load
  • positioning the load precisely
  • risk of sudden movement of the load
  • several risk factors
  • frequent or prolonged physical effort
  • insufficient rest or recovery periods
  • a rate of work imposed by a process
  • handling while seated
  • team handling

The load

When assessing the load, consider if it is:

  • heavy
  • bulky or unwieldy
  • being pushed or pulled

The working environment

When assessing the working environment consider the manual handling implications such as:

  • Do the handlers have room to move around easily?
  • Are there uneven, slippery or unstable floors?
  • Are there variations in floor level?
  • Are work surfaces at different heights?
  • Are there extremes of temperature, high humidity or gusts of wind that may affect handling?
  • Are there strong air movements and gusts of wind?
  • Are there poor lighting conditions?

Individual capability

When assessing individual capability consider the manual handling implications such as:

  • Does the task require unusual strength, height etc.?
  • Personal protective equipment and other clothing
  • Abdominal and back support belts
  • Is special information or training needed to enable the task to be done safely?

The above four areas are only the starting point of developing a manual handling risk assessment. Its development requires a holistic approach, taking into account the work, the person/s doing the task, the service users and other criteria which we will explore in future articles.

QCS policies

QCS has manual handling guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. In my next article I will continue the review of manual handling to support the development of manual handling risk assessments.

Further information of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor

Topics: Health & Safety

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