Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), including manual handling injuries, are the most common type of occupational ill health in the UK. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the total number of MSD cases in 2011/12 was 439,000 out of a total 1,073,000 for all work-related illnesses.
The HSE defines manual handling as the transporting or supporting of a load, including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving. For some people, manual handling accidents can result in long periods of sick leave and for others it can even lead to the end of their career.
Because of the potential to cause both short and long-term harm, many companies now make manual handling training – i.e. the safe way to move and handle objects and/or people – compulsory for their employees.
Is moving and handling training really necessary?
It is a fact that people who use poor manual handling techniques are more likely to suffer an injury of one kind or another. At best, injuries are a nuisance; at worst, they can be life-changing. Most people agree that this is justification enough for making manual handling training compulsory in the workplace. Needless to say, there is also the legal position to take into account – employers are legally obliged to do all they can to ensure their workers are well versed on how best to take care of themselves whilst carrying out their duties.
The ins and outs of moving and handling courses
Effective manual handling training focuses on teaching employees about how the spine works, and why they must make a conscious effort to take care of their back when moving and handling loads. Most people who sustain a back injury believe it is caused by a one-off specific event. The truth is though, a back injury is normally the result of weeks, months or even years’ worth of cumulative damage. Twisting, leaning and bad posture all conspire to slowly wear away the discs which sit between the vertebrae, protecting the bones and preventing them from pressing onto the nerves.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that back injuries take a long time to heal once they ‘arrive’, thus afflicted individuals are frequently forced to take long periods of time off work. Moreover, many people with bad backs find to their cost that there is actually very little that can be done for them once the damage has been done.
With this in mind it is clear to see why moving and handling training courses should be embraced rather than vilified. Whilst it may be fashionable to regard manual handling training as being yet another example of ‘elf and safety gone mad’; the truth of the matter is it can actually be incredibly important for people’s well being.
Surely half a day spent learning a few simple lifting, moving and handling techniques which will protect an individual’s health for years to come is worth it…isn’t it?
About the author – Bo Heamyan blogs regularly about occupational well-being, and has written extensively about the benefits of health awareness and first aid training in the workplace for a number of industry leading companies, including St John Ambulance.