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William Gaunt

Common Workplace Manual Handling Injuries and How to Prevent Them

May 2024

Manual handling is quite possibly one of the most universally recognised concepts in health and safety. Manual handling is transporting or supporting a load by hand or bodily force. It includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving loads. A load can be anything ranging from an object to a person or animal. A manual handling course is an absolute necessity for most industries that require some kind of physical work and there’s a good reason why. 


How Many Manual Injuries Happen at Work and Why?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), handling, lifting, and carrying are some of the most common workplace accidents. They accounted for 17% of non-fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR in 2022/23. Many of these injuries occur because of poor training and improper understanding of the dangers of manual handling. More generally, employers and employees often need to better understand who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace.

We recognise the need to address manual handling risks, which is why we developed the Astutis IIRSM Approved Manual Handling Course — to help drive down the number of manual handling injuries by providing comprehensive training for individuals involved in manual handling tasks.

It received approval from the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management because it provides both theoretical knowledge and practical application in the workplace. By addressing legal obligations, providing insights into anatomy and biomechanics, and offering hands-on training in safe lifting techniques, the course contributes to creating workplaces where manual handling is not a risk, but a mastered skill.


Most Common Workplace Manual Handling Injuries

While there are several types of manual handling injuries, it's important to remember that there are potential mitigations that can be implemented to protect your employees:

Back Injuries

Ranging from muscle strains to more severe issues like slipped discs. Prevention methods include:

    • Training: Proper training in lifting techniques, emphasising lifting with the legs, not the back.
    • Use of Equipment: Use lifting aids like trolleys, forklifts, or hoists for heavy loads.
    • Team lifting: When possible, team lifting can distribute the load and reduce strain on any one individual.

Strains and Sprains

These injuries occur when muscles or ligaments are stretched or torn. They can happen in any part of the body but are most common in the back, shoulders, and wrists. Prevention methods include:

    • Stretching: Encourage employees to stretch before and after lifting or carrying loads.
    • Proper posture: Maintain a straight back and avoid twisting motions while lifting.
    • Breaks: Allow employees to take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.

Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps can occur due to overexertion or holding a position for too long. Prevention methods include:

    • Warm-up: Ensure muscles are warmed up before engaging in heavy lifting tasks. Some examples include shrugs, shoulder rolls, arm circles and bodyweight squats.
    • Hydration: Maintain proper hydration levels, as dehydration can contribute to muscle cramps.

Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs)

These injuries occur due to repetitive movements over time, leading to strain on muscles and tendons. Prevention methods include:

    • Job Rotation: Rotate employees through different tasks to vary the strain on muscles and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
    • Ergonomic Equipment: Provide ergonomic tools and equipment that reduce strain on muscles and joints.
    • Regular Breaks: Encourage employees to take regular breaks to rest and stretch muscles.

Crush Injuries

These injuries occur when body parts are caught between objects or crushed by heavy loads. Prevention methods include:

    • Proper storage: Store heavy items at waist height to reduce the risk of items falling and causing crush injuries.
    • Use of guards: Use guards and barriers to prevent contact with moving machinery or equipment.
    • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wear appropriate PPE, such as steel-toed boots, to protect against crush injuries.

Preventing manual handling injuries requires a combination of proper training, ergonomic practices, the use of appropriate equipment, and fostering a culture of safety in the workplace. Regular risk assessments and employee feedback can also help identify potential hazards and implement effective prevention measures.


Manual Handling Course Syllabus

The Astutis IIRSM Approved Manual Handling course is divided into four detailed areas:

  • Safe Handling Techniques.
  • Risk Assessment.
  • Manual Handling for Trainers.
  • Manual Handling for Assessors and Trainers.

In each of these areas, the following topics are covered:

Introduction to Manual Handling: The course begins by building a foundational understanding of manual handling, emphasising the importance of safe practices in various work environments. Participants gain insights into the risks associated with manual handling and the potential consequences of poor practices.

Legal Frameworks and Compliance: Navigating the legal landscape is crucial for organisations and individuals involved in manual handling. Doing your due diligence from a legal perspective is paramount. Learners will explore the legislation and compliance requirements related to manual handling, ensuring that participants understand the legal obligations and standards that shape their practices.

Anatomy and Biomechanics: Understanding the human body's mechanics is pivotal for safe manual handling. Learners will delve into the biomechanics relevant to manual handling tasks, providing participants with insights into how the body functions during lifting, carrying, and other activities.

Manual Handling Risk Assessment: Effective risk assessment is a cornerstone of manual handling safety. This module explores methodologies for assessing manual handling risks, empowering participants to identify potential hazards, evaluate the associated risks, and implement mitigation measures.

Safe Lifting Techniques: Practical skills in safe lifting are central to the course. Participants learn the proper techniques for lifting, lowering, pushing, and pulling objects, ensuring that manual handling tasks are executed with minimal strain on the body and reduced risk of injury.

Use of Manual Handling Aids: In some instances, manual handling aids can significantly reduce the risk of injury. This module provides insights into the types of manual handling aids available and instructs participants on their correct usage, contributing to more efficient and safer manual handling practices.

Ergonomics in Manual Handling: Understanding ergonomics is crucial for preventing musculoskeletal disorders. This module explores ergonomic principles, guiding participants on how to design workstations and tasks to fit the capabilities and limitations of the human body.

Practical Application and Assessment: The course culminates in a practical application and assessment module. Participants engage in simulated manual handling scenarios, applying the knowledge and skills gained throughout the course. The assessment ensures that individuals can demonstrate their understanding of safe manual handling practices.


Manual Handling Training for Businesses

As we have mentioned, organisations' first and foremost priority should be investing in quality training for the workforce. The Astutis IIRSM Approved Manual Handling course empowers employees to navigate manual handling challenges safely, ensuring a workplace where every lift is managed and executed in the correct way. Upon completing the course, learners will be able to:

  • Identify and understand types of injuries caused by manual handling.
  • Summarise the legal responsibilities of both the employer and their fellow employees.
  • Plan and carry out manual handling tasks safely using the best possible practices they learnt through practical application and theoretical learning.

The course below is for any employees working in any sector who may be required to lift and move items as part of their day-to-day.


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