For many years we have known that manual handling tasks, if done incorrectly, can cause pain and suffering to people who undertake lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling etc. So much so that if you look at the Manual Handling Regulations they clearly identify we should avoid it if possible.
HSE statistics identify a third of RIDDOR reports involve manual handling.
So why is it then that estimations are that 80% of us will suffer with back pain by the time we retire? The problem is that avoiding doing manual handling tasks is not realistic, is it?! We all have to pick things up and move them around throughout our everyday life. The problem is that for many, they don’t properly understand the long term health risks and have not been trained in good manual handling techniques. Even if they have there are many tasks where applying these techniques is difficult and for some, it’s impossible.
Experience has shown me that once you have had a bad back it never really goes away; that comes from being a long term sufferer myself. I regularly come across many employees for whom everyday lifting is painful and often their employer has been unaware of this. Clearly, if this is the case then the employer has failed to complete a valid risk assessment.
When I train people in manual handling I stress the importance of taking a moment to consider the task fully before undertaking any manual handling (a quick risk mental assessment). By doing this then we have the chance to determine if there is a better, safer way to do the task; which might be to ask for help. As I remind them, it’s only the person doing the manual handling who is likely to suffer (unless the HSE become involved of course).