Mastering the art of safe object handling, Building advice, Metal fabrication
Mastering the Art of Safe Object Handling
14 November 2023
Heavy lifting is a common workplace hazard that significantly contributes to occupational injuries. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that manual handling contributed to 18% of all non-fatal incidents last year.
Inadequate manual handling practices can result in a range of adverse outcomes, notably musculoskeletal injuries such as strains, back problems, and joint issues. These injuries can lead to significant discomfort and long-term health concerns for affected workers.
It is imperative for organisations to place a strong emphasis on evaluating and improving their manual handling procedures to minimise the risk of injury and the associated consequences.
This blog will cover how to reduce manual handling incidents and suggest effective precautionary measures to ensure the well-being and safety of workers when handling heavy objects.
What is Safe Manual Handling?
Safe manual handling refers to the systematic and organised process of moving, storing, and transporting objects and goods in a way that minimises the risk of injury, damage, or accidents to workers and the objects themselves.
Safe manual handling involves proper equipment, tools, training, and techniques that allow workers to transport objects with minimal risk.
Critical Principles for Safe Manual Handling
- Proper Training: Ensure all employees handling objects are adequately trained. This includes instruction on safe techniques, equipment operation, and hazard awareness.
- Ergonomics: Design workstations, tools and equipment to minimise physical strain on workers. Consider factors like posture, reach, and lifting techniques to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
- Risk Assessment: Conduct a thorough assessment of manual handling tasks to identify potential hazards. Evaluate the weight, size, shape, and stability of objects, as well as environmental factors that could pose risks.
- Use of Appropriate Equipment: Provide the right tools and machinery for the task, such as forklifts, conveyors, and pallet jacks. Ensure workers use this equipment for efficient and safe object handling.
- Communication and Coordination: Promote clear communication and teamwork among workers involved in object handling. Effective communication helps coordinate tasks, ensure that objects are moved safely, and prevent accidents.
Equipment and Tools for Safe Manual Handling
Equipment and tools enhance the efficiency and safety of manual handling processes by reducing the risk of injuries and accidents associated with moving heavy items. Here are some of the equipment and tools that workplaces require:
- Forklifts: Forklifts are versatile machines for lifting and transporting heavy objects in warehouses, construction sites, and manufacturing facilities. They come in various types, including counterbalance, reach, and pallet trucks, each designed for specific tasks.
- Pallet Jacks (Pump Trucks): Pallet jacks are manual or electric tools that lift and move palletised loads within a workspace. They are handy for loading and unloading objects from trucks and positioning them in storage areas.
- Conveyors: Conveyor systems efficiently move objects from one location to another, reducing the need for manual handling. They are commonly used in manufacturing, distribution centres, and shipping facilities.
- Cranes: Cranes are essential for lifting and relocating extremely heavy or oversized objects. They come in various forms, such as overhead cranes, gantry cranes, and mobile cranes, each suited for different applications.
- Hoists and Lifts: Hoists and lifts, including chain hoists and scissor lifts, provide controlled vertical movement of objects. These tools are valuable for raising equipment, machinery, or objects to higher levels.
Common Object Handling Hazards and Prevention
1. Heavy Lifting and Musculoskeletal Strain:
Lifting, carrying, or moving heavy objects can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, including strains, sprains, and back injuries. Proper training in ergonomic lifting techniques, encouraging team lifting or the use of mechanical aids can all help prevent these issues.
Slips, trips, and falls can occur when walking on slippery surfaces or navigating cluttered work areas during manual handling. Keep work areas clean and organised, address spills immediately, provide anti-slip flooring, and ensure employees wear appropriate footwear.
3. Struck-By Incidents:
Workers can be struck by falling objects, equipment, or vehicles during manual handling tasks. Secure objects during storage and transport, establish safety zones around equipment in operation and ensure that workers wear high-visibility clothing.
4. Caught-In or Between:
Workers’ body parts or clothing can become caught in machinery or between objects during handling. Install machine guards and protective barriers, implement lockout/tagout procedures, and train workers on safe operating practices.
5. Repetitive Motion and Overexertion:
Performing repetitive manual handling tasks can lead to overuse injuries and fatigue.
Rotate workers to different tasks, implement ergonomic workstations, and encourage regular breaks to reduce strain.
6. Inadequate Training:
Lack of proper training can lead to accidents and injuries during manual handling activities.
Provide comprehensive manual handling awareness training to employees that provides hazard awareness and covers safe lifting techniques.
7. Poor Communication:
Inadequate communication among workers can lead to accidents during manual handling operations. Promote clear communication and teamwork, use signals and signs, and establish well-defined procedures for handling objects.
Mastering the art of safe object handling Conclusion
Safe manual handling is not only a vital component of workplace safety but also an essential contributor to operational efficiency. Prioritising safe manual handling ensures that objects are moved, stored, and transported with the utmost care and security. By adhering to the principles, utilising the right equipment, and following best practices, organisations can protect their workforce, prevent injuries, and reduce damage to stock and downtime.
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