Manual Handling

April 12 2016

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With one of our own team succumbing to a recent back injury (non-wok related we must add), it’s a timely reminder of the importance of correct manual handling practices, both at the workplace and when you’re at home, playing sport, even doing innocent activities such as getting out of a chair or bed, can cause painful and longer term injuries, preventing you from work and partaking in activities you enjoy.

Large amounts of Lost Time Injuries, workers compensation claims and resulting costs are related to muscular skeletal strains from workers lifting too heavy an item or not lifting and moving correctly.

Manual Handling is defined as any activity requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain another thing.

Common injuries caused by poor manual handling include sprains and strains, back pain, disc injuries, sciatic pain and hernias. These injuries are the result of damage to the intervertebral discs and muscles of the back, which are often strained during manual handling activities.

The abdominal muscles make the most contribution to preventing back injury. To enable this muscle to assist you properly when lifting, you must contract it as you lift. If this muscle is relaxed, the load typically shifts to the lower back muscles and overloads them. As such general good health, fitness and not being overweight not only contributes to a healthy lifestyle, but assists in preventing back injuries.

Injury to the back may result from either:

  • Gradual wear and tear caused by frequent manual handling over a period of time
  • Sudden damaged caused by one strenuous lift
  • Sudden damage caused by an unplanned twist or fall.

The back is not designed to frequently bend, lift, move, push or carry anything that puts added pressure on the vertebrae, or requires you to exert force to do so. Injuries caused by incorrect manual handling are often easily preventable. There is no safe weight to lift, you must assess each job using some simple rules:

  • Assess the load and plan the job - consider how far the load must be moved and if the path is clear
  • Always consider mechanical assistance to assist - a trolley or multiple person lift
  • The risk of back injury increases significantly when lifting weights heavier than 15kg
  • Do not lift loads greater than you are comfortable with
  • If it is not practical to eliminate lifting from a job or activity, employees should be instructed to lift in accordance with safe lifting techniques.