Top 5 mistakes businesses make with manual handling: Are you really reducing the risk of injury?

manualhandling

These mistakes are causing injuries to workers and costing businesses money – and you’ve probably made them without even realising.

Manual handling injuries can lead to increased workers’ compensation premiums, reduced productivity and can affect morale and safety culture at your workplace. So what are these top five offenders? Number 5 may surprise you!

1. Not Using Wheels
The human race has come a long way since caveman days and a lot of that progress can be attributed to the invention and use of the wheel. But so often at work there is no recognition of the fact that things would be much easier to move if they were on a cart, a trolley or a ‘dolly’, or if the item you have to move had wheels on it. Would wheels make things easier at your workplace?

2. Double Double Handling Handling

If it’s that annoying just to read, how annoying must it be to actually have to double-handle something – not to mention the increased risk of injury?

You may have started as a small workshop with only a couple of machines and workers. But as your business grows so too does your workshop, and it often does so with little thought about the layout and flow of the work area.

Do materials come in to an area close to where they will be made into products? Does your production area follow the flow of work? Does your finished product get stored close to dispatch? If not, chances are your work area is not as efficient as it could be. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and check if you are making this mistake?

3. Not Involving Workers

You want to do the right thing and reduce injuries. You have control over the money and you have ultimate responsibility for what happens in your business, both good and bad. As a result, it can be hard to involve other people in the decision making. But when it comes to safety issues, involving workers will help you comply with the safety legislation and more importantly it can provide you with very useful information.

By involving workers, you can better understand why the job is done the way it is, why they don’t use the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) or follow the procedures, and what they think would improve their health and safety. You pay your workers because they know how to do their job; doesn’t it seem smart to involve them in getting it done more safely?

4. Ignoring Twinges
Do you know that one person who always complains about the weather, the cricket scores, their mother…?  They can be easy to ignore. But ignoring complaints from workers performing manual tasks can mean you’re missing vital early warning signs.

Workers should be encouraged to report any discomfort, twinges or niggles. This early reporting will allow for a quick check of the situation: are they performing the task safely?; has something changed with the equipment (maintenance issue)?; is the material or load being handled differently?

By checking things out, corrections can be made before the twinge becomes a full blown muscular injury claim. Do you encourage early reporting?

5. Safe Lifting Training

It may seem a bit strange to suggest that providing safe lifting training is a mistake, not least because instruction, training and supervision is a big deal in the WHS Act. But not all training is created equal.

In fact, numerous studies have shown safe lifting training does nothing to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries and there is no one right way to lift; there are far too many variables (both with the lifter and the load). Also, too often safe lifting training is used as a poor substitute for actually fixing a problem with manual handling.

Is your site guilty of this mistake, or of any of the others discussed here? You can learn how to really reduce the risk of a manual handling injury at your workplace by tuning in on 23 February for the first of two free live webinars Ai Group will be presenting on manual handling injury prevention. We will be talking about the risk factors affecting manual handling (some of which may surprise you) and what you can do about them at your workplace.

In the meantime, Ai Group members can access free information on manual handling via the Ai Group Work Health & Safety Resource Centre.

Register here for the webinar

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Annette Alexander
Annette Alexander is a Senior Advisor – Safety and Workers’ Compensation Services for Ai Group in Queensland. With almost 25 years’ experience in work health and safety, Annette has performed WHS roles for mineral processing, manufacturing and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) businesses, government bodies, and the banking and finance sector. Annette has worked in large and complex multi-site and multi-state organisations to advance their health and safety outcomes.

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