The Legal Requirements Pertaining To All Manual Handling Operations In The Workplace.

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Published: 26th June 2015
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Just over a third of all reportable workplace injuries currently occur as a result of manual handling operations and about ten per cent of major injuries result from manual lifting. All British employers and their employees have a legal responsibility for Health and Safety in the workplace and no-one is exempt. Therefore, it is clear that all operatives who are involved in any manual operations need to be taught how to carry out these actions properly and then practice such methods in their daily working activities. This applies to lifting, pushing, pulling and putting down, and there is no difference whether hands or body force are used.

Most people carry out some of these actions in the workplace every day, so it follows that nearly all employees will need some advice or training. Not only will a significant number of handling injuries be avoided but the number of days that employees are absent from work recovering from such injuries will also decrease.

It is every employer’s responsibility to ensure that, from the start of their employment, all their employees are properly trained in the correct procedures involved in manual handling operations relating to their particular work. And it doesn't end there, for employers should also provide regular refresher courses to ensure that their employees are reminded of the correct procedures and advised of any new procedures. It is important that the correct procedures are adhered to which means that management should maintain written records of all those who attended courses and the dates when they took place. All employees are required to sign a document indicating that they attended a training or refresher session.

In addition to proper and adequate training to avoid manual handling injuries, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations also require the employer to carry out Risk Assessments of all manual handling operations in order to minimise potential injuries. It is essential to determine all aspects of any handling operations which cannot be avoided and could be hazardous.

So, before you carry out a Risk Assessment it is important to work out the key factors associated with every element of each operation within a manufacturing working environment, such as the shop floor. There are four major factors to consider for each and every operation. They are:

• the type of task
• the type of operative carrying out the operation
• the type and nature of the operation
• the type of environment where the operation is carried out.

It may be that following the completion of a Risk Assessment, a particular task is deemed to be too risky and therefore an alternative approach will need to be developed in order to complete the operation safely. This may include using mechanical aids, such as trolleys, lift tables or even fork lifts. Alternatively, management may consider that the task would be better to be carried out by several operatives rather than by a single person.

The Health and Safety Executive has provided guidelines for both male and female operatives about the maximum weights that should be lifted at particular heights relative to a person's body. Because employees vary in height, a rigid set of rules cannot be provided, but the Health and Safety Guidance provides employers and employees with guidance so that day to day, regular tasks and associated actions can be carried out safely and with the minimal risk for injury.

It is essential that management monitors how their employees apply everything taught in Health and Safety training sessions and determines how training methods can be improved. This is best carried out with the appropriate employees because they may have suggestions about how to improve their own working methods.

Although employers have a legal obligation regarding all manual handling operations in the work place, it is in both their and their employees’ interest that they reduce, minimise or even remove the possibilities of any injuries taking place. Employees will enjoy a safer working environment and with reduced incidents and accidents, their respect for management should improve. Additionally the number of employee working days lost through injuries will decline, along with all the resulting administrative costs.

Peter Lomax is an employee of Power Lift located in Nottingham. They design and fabricate scissor lifts, platform lifts and lift tables for both British and international clients. They are renowned for their manufacture of table scissor lifts, able to produce them in stainless steel lift tables to meet their customers' exacting specifications.

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