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Manual handling and back injuries

Manual handling is incorporated in many different jobs. Unsafe manual handling techniques are a common route to back injuries.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) musculoskeletal injury accounts for 30 percent of all ill-health in the workplace, and the biggest cause by far is poor manual handling practices.

Musculoskeletal injury includes damage to the bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and soft tissue that affects the body’s movement.

Sectors with the highest rates of manual handling injury are agriculture, healthcare, construction and postal/courier services. Across all sectors, there were almost 9 million working days lost during 2019/20.

Manual handling weight guidance

Manual handling refers to lifting, carrying, moving (pushing or pulling) an object, person or animal.

HSE guidance is that a man shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 25kg while the safe maximum limit for a woman is 16kg. These limits are for loads being lifted to no more than waist height.

Where the load is to be lifted to shoulder height, the maximum weight reduces to 5kg for men and 3kg for women.

Two-man lifting

Where two people are lifting together, the general rule is that the load should not be more than two thirds of their combined weight total. So, for two men the combined weight should not be more than 33kg.

“Heavy lifting” is considered to be anything over 22.7kg.

Safe lifting?

Lifting a load below the weight limit does not mean that it is safe to lift. The maximum weights are based on the assumptions that the working conditions are good, the load is easy to grip with both hands and the employee is reasonably fit and well.

Even where the load is within the safe limit, the risk of injury increases significantly if there is any degree of bending, stretching or twisting involved.

Employer’s legal obligations

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, all employers must provide their staff with proper information and training to be able to carry out  manual handling tasks safely.

Employers must also carry out a thorough risk assessment that considers the task being carried out, the individual, the nature of the load and the working environment.

Employee obligations

Creating a safe working environment is not solely down to the employer, staff must play their part too. Staff must follow systems of work that are in place and use equipment properly. Staff are also under an obligation to notify their employer if there are changes in the workplace or they identify an activity that is either unsafe or has the potential to become unsafe.

Injured at work?

If you have been injured while carrying out  your job and you believe it was not your fault, call and have a no obligation chat with our friendly team. We will be happy to let you know what your options are. Call 01302 320621.