It has been suggested that musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, neck pain and RSI-type conditions account for nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union.
These are the findings by The national organisation BackCare who campaign for healthy backs,
The main Law applicable to accidents at work which involve manual handling tasks is found in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended). These Regulations require employers to manage the risks presented to their employees.
What exactly is Manual Handling ?
This is defined as ‘any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or by bodily force’. Basically, any activity that requires an individual to lift, move or support a load, will be classified as a manual handling task.
Anyone involved in the moving and handling of goods or people could be at risk of injury.
There can be risks handling even light loads if a repetitive task is being carried out in poor conditions.
These manual handling risks can be found in all work sectors, however, constructions, agriculture and healthcare are known as high risk sectors due to the number and nature of manual handling activities. However, you can also be injured as a result of a manual handling accident if you work in diverse environments such as in an office, a shop or as a delivery driver.
Employers have a responsibility to:
- Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.
- Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
- Reduce the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Where possible, provide mechanical assistance, for example, a sack, trolley or hoist. Where this is not reasonably practicable then employers must explore changes to the task, the load and the working environment.
An ergonomic approach is important to look at how the task can be fitted to the individual.
Reducing the risk
Employers must then take certain steps to reduce the risk. If the risk cannot be avoided, it must be minimised. These risks can be reduced in various ways:
Making sure the area around the task is clear of obstacles. Making sure doors are open and floors are clear of slipping/tripping hazards.
- Use mechanical equipment.
- Reduce the amount of handling or reduce the load into smaller pieces.
- Extend the time to do the job with increased rest breaks to allow the body to recover.
- Making sure there is a good grip on the load.
Therefore, as can be seen from above, as an employee, you should expect the highest levels of safety and care are in place to protect and look after you whilst you carry out manual tasks.
If you are injured as a result of manual handling, you may be able to claim compensation. The most common injury sustained by people carrying out manual handling at work is to your back. However, injuries to your neck, shoulders, arms, hands and feet are common too.
There are strict legal time limits in place to bring a claim. Seek legal advice early. You would need to prove that your manual handling injury was caused as a result of another party’s breach of duty.
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