Good manual handling practices are essential towards guarding against musculoskeletal injuries and long term problems. Poor manual handling is one of the most common hazards that workers have to contend with. Although no work site is free from the hazards of manual handling, by knowing how to minimise the particular risks involved, workers can reduce the harmful effects of poor manual handling upon the body.
What is manual handling, and how can workers do so safely?
Manual handling is defined as any activity involving the use of a worker’s muscular force to lift, move, push, pull, carry, hold or restrain objects on site, such as building materials, tools and equipment. The sustained muscle exertion required to restrain or support a load, and the effort needed to maintain the fixed postures that occur in the back and neck, may contribute to manual handling injuries. Manual handling injuries often occur due to wear, tear and stress on the body. Injuries left unattended over time can frequently be debilitating on the body.
Your Exercise Physiologist can help you learn the correct techniques and postures needed for your workplace, and effectively help reduce the incidence of preventable musculo-skeletal injuries. By conducting a regular exercise regime, your body can adapt to work-specific exercises, and train the correct muscle groups needed for each movement, rather than compensating for weak areas.
Even before lifting a load, you should consider whether it is absolutely necessary to lift manually. Can it be lifted using mechanical means, such as a machine or wheel barrow? If not, can a co-worker or co-workers assist you with the load? Only lift a load that you are physically able to carry. Consider its height, weight and overall size before attempting to push, pull or lift it.
Here are 8 tips to consider when performing manual handling at work:
• Avoid stooping through the spine at all times.
• Maintain natural curves by bending at the hips and knees, not the back.
• Move the feet to change direction, to avoid twisting the spine.
• Adopt a wide-based stance by placing the feet comfortably apart, prior to the task being performed.
• Use the gluteal and thigh muscles, rather than the back.
• To push/pull, place one foot in front of the other, and shift body weight in the direction of movement.
• Keep elbows braced into the waist.
• If possible, grasp objects with your palms facing up.