As I go around many businesses across the UK, it’s interesting to see how each business manages its manual handling risks and demonstrates this through risk assessments.
Most fail to realise that it’s often very difficult to just consider manual handling in a general risk assessment. This is because when undertaking a general risk assessment, the assessors fail to consider all of the risk factors involved in manual handling. These include:
- The task – what’s involved, e.g. how far does the load have to be moved? how often is the task repeated? etc.
- The individual – who’s doing the task and what are they capable or not capable of doing?
- The load – what is the load weight? does its centre of gravity have an impact? is it easy to handle? is it stable? etc.
- The environment – what space is available to move around the load? will temperature have an impact? is it inside or outside and will the weather have an impact?
The problem is that without thinking about the above points, how do you know if the health of your staff is being affected by the manual handling in your business?
Watching an episode of Undercover Boss recently, which featured DHL, this was clearly demonstrated. The CEO had to help the crews loading the planes and found that all of the staff expected to have severe back pains at least twice per year due to the sheer physical effort required in their daily tasks. Much of this was because DHL management was pushing hard to increase performance to the customer; but had failed to look at what this meant to the employees.
The CEO did recognise this in part and determined to provide physio support at the airport twice per week which I suppose was of some help but was not really fixing the problem was it?
If your business fails to properly assess manual handling risks then you run the risk of:
- Staff going sick;
- Insurance claims that cannot be defended;
- Increased insurance premiums;
- HSE intervention through FFI or prosecution (remember the costs can quickly escalate and you will still need to fix the problems);
- Health & safety compliance schemes refusal to provide accreditation (as manual handling is a current focus area for the schemes)
The last of these is interesting as we have many clients that require annual accreditation from various compliance schemes and all now insist on evidence that manual handling assessments are completed (normally at least 3 assessment examples as a minimum).
Importantly though, for many years we have known that manual handling tasks have the potential for employees to develop work related upper limb injuries and these still account for a large part of work-related ill health issues reported.
So, rather than wait for your workforce to complain or to go sick, why not take a detailed look at your manual handling tasks and see if improvements can be made. It certainly makes good business sense in the long term.