Manual Handling Safety Review
In just about all types of manufacturing, warehousing, mining and other facilities there are many risks that people have to be concerned about. One of the biggest concerns today is manually handling safety. Manual handling is any activity where a person has to actually handle items in the facility themselves, and not just use a machine to do it.
There are many risks involved with this type of work, including pulling muscles, injuring your back, causing damage to joints and many others. When looking to improve the safety of manual handling in your facility, make sure you go through each of these areas and check to see if you are doing all you can to ensure safety.
Understand Immediate and Delayed Hazards
When looking at improving manual handling safety, you need to recognize that there are two primary risks that need to be addressed. The first is immediate hazards, which can result in injuries that happen right away. The second, which often goes unaddressed, is the long term hazards of manual labor.
Most facilities are able to identify the risks that can result in immediate problems without much trouble. Things like lifting extremely heavy objects, items that are hard to grab, and other similar things are all simple to identify and address.
The longer term issues, such as joint damage and repetitive motion injuries are much more difficult. Taking the time to look at what types of risks there are for employees who do the same types of tasks every day for years at a time is very important.
Taking steps to diversify the work that each individual performs can help to reduce this risk. You have to make sure, however, that having someone do a variety of jobs won’t actually increase the dangers in the long run because they won’t be as skilled at any one task. This is why it can be very hard to address the long term manual handling safety in your facility.
Properly Assess All Objects before Moving
One of the most important ways to improve manual handling safety is to make sure everyone knows how to properly assess an object before attempting to move it. If you walk up to a box, for example, thinking that it will be easy to lift, you could strain your back if it is actually heavier than you had thought.
The following steps can help you to properly assess any object before working with it:
- Determine its Weight – You should always know how much an object weighs, or at least have the approximate weight, before lifting it.
- Where it is going – Knowing where an object is going is something you should always keep in mind. If you have to carry it a long distance, it will be necessary to take greater care to avoid injury.
- Proper Lifting Techniques – Based on the size and shape of the item being lifted, will you be able to follow all the proper lifting guidelines (listed below)? If not, than you should get assistance before attempting to lift.
- Use the NIOSH Lifting Equation – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has created an equation for determining how to lift, and when you may need additional equipment or individuals to help. Teaching your team to use this equation can be very helpful. You can learn more about this equation, and how to use it, on the CDC website HERE.
One of the easiest ways to make sure everyone is able to properly assess an object before lifting or moving it is to have a label placed on it with the necessary information. Using an industrial label printer (such as this), you can quickly identify the weight, dimensions and other important information so the person is able to read it without a problem.
Following Proper Lifting Guidelines
Whenever lifting any type of object, it is important to lift correctly. Using the right techniques, you can avoid injuries or other problems that can commonly occur when you lift things incorrectly. The following are some simple tips that all employees should be aware of whenever they need to lift an object:
- Proper Positioning – Make sure to stand close to the load you are lifting, with your feet about shoulder width apart. Put one foot slightly ahead of the other to help improve your balance.
- Squat at the Knees – Never bend down at the waste or with your back when lifting. Instead, bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible. This will help avoid back injuries.
- Firm Grip – Make sure you have a very firm grip before lifting. Don’t attempt to lift it up, and then adjust to get a better grip. Many times, using gloves can help with this.
- Lift Slowly – Don’t make the mistake of quickly coming to a standing position. This can cause the object to shift, or the grip to slip. Instead, rise yourself up smoothly to ensure proper balance.
- Keep Objects Close – Once you are standing, make sure you hold the object close to the body so that it stays stable and secure. This will also help to avoid back injuries while moving.
By following these simple lifting guidelines, you can help ensure you can avoid injuries at all times. Just remember, people should follow these guidelines no matter what they are lifting, even if they think it is just a simple item to pick up.
Push Rather than Pull
In some cases, it is much better to drag an item across the floor rather than trying to lift it. When this is the case, you will typically want to try to push the item rather than pull it. This is because pushing items allows you to use your upper body to brace yourself, and the strength in your legs to do the actual moving.
When you have to pull an item the strength has to go through your back, which can cause injury, or at the very least soreness. Remember, even if the item is on a cart with wheels, it is still best to push whenever possible.
Taking the time to make sure everyone is aware of this can help to not only avoid injury, but also help people to be able to work more efficiently throughout the day so that they don’t get fatigued.
Continuous Manual Handling Training
When it comes to manual handling safety, the most important thing to remember is that you need to keep everyone thinking about this topic. It is not enough to go through once and let people know about the importance of lifting safety or any of the other safety items.
Instead, it is important to do the official training, but then have frequent reminders as well. Many companies will put up signs in areas where a lot of lifting or other manual handling takes place. This can be a great way to keep it on the front of all the employees’ minds every day.
With proper attention, you can help ensure everyone in the facility is well aware of the importance of this, and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. By keeping themselves safe, of course, they will also help to improve the overall safety of the entire facility.
- Cut Back on Back Injuries
- Loading Dock Safety
- Material Handling 101 – Breaking Down OSHA’s Guidelines for Moving & Storage
- Awkward Postures – Five Postures to be avoided in the Workplace
- Reducing Workplace Injuries: Safety Tips for Employers