What is Manual handling?
Hello there, this is Goke Akingbade ( your Safety Guide) bringing another interesting topic of discussion. We will considering manual handling today.
Manual handling refers to any transporting or supporting of a load by one or more workers. It includes the following activities: lifting, holding, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving of a load.
Manual handling is also sometimes called ‘manual material handling’ (MMH).
Manual handling occurs in almost all working environments (factories, warehouses, building sites, farms, hospitals, offices etc). It can include lifting boxes at a packaging line, carrying of construction materials, pushing carts and trolleys, handling patients in hospitals, and cleaning.
Young workers reportedly are the most exposed of all age groups.
A sectoral breakdown of rates of exposure to manual handling shows that workers in agriculture, construction, hotels and restaurants are most likely to be exposed to heavy loads (68%, 64% and 48% respectively), followed by workers in the sectors of manufacturing and mining, wholesale and retail trade (close to 42%), and transport and communications (35%).
The possible negative health impacts of manual handling
Manual handling can lead to fatigue, injuries of the back, neck, shoulders, arms or other body parts. Two groups of injuries may result from manual handling:
• Cuts, bruises, fractures etc, due to sudden, unexpected events such as accidents
• Damage to the musculoskeletal system of the body (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, blood vessels and nerves) as a consequence of gradual and cumulative wear and tear through repetitive manual handling. These injuries are called ‘musculoskeletal disorders’ (MSDs)and can be divided into 3 groups:
o Neck and upper limb disorders
o Lower limb disorders
o Back pain and back injuries.
What makes manual handling hazardous?
There are several factors that make manual handling hazardous, and increase the risk of injury. These are called risk factors. The risk factors, particularly for back injury, are related to 4 aspects of manual handling: the load, the task, the environment and the individual.1,5
The risk of back injury increases during lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling of loads, if the load is:
• Too heavy
There is no exact weight limit for manual handling. A weight of 20 to 25 kg is heavy to lift for most people, especially if the load is handled several times in an hour. Note that pushing or pulling often imposes less loading on the body than lifting or carrying.
• Too large
One basic rule for lifting and carrying is to keep the load as close to the body as possible. In order to get a broad load close to the body, the worker has to open the arms to reach and hold the load. The arm muscles cannot produce force when reaching as effectively as with the arms held in close. Thus, the muscles will get tired more rapidly when handling a large bulky load.
• Difficult to grasp
Loads that are difficult to grasp can result in the object slipping, causing sudden movement of the load. Gloves usually make grasping more difficult than with bare hands. Providing the objects with handles or using aids for gripping (e.g. when carrying plate material) reduces the load on the worker. Loads with sharp edges or of dangerous materials (solids or liquids) can injure workers, especially in the event of a collision.
• Unbalanced, unstable or if the contents can move
With unbalanced objects, it is difficult to hold the centre of gravity of the load close to the middle of the body. This results in uneven loading of muscles, and fatigue. Unstable or moving content, such as a liquid, causes uneven loading of the muscles and sudden movements of the load can make workers lose their balance and fall.
• Difficult to reach
Loads that can only be reached by outstretching the arms, or by bending the trunk will require more muscular force. The spine may easily be hurt if the trunk is bent or twisted while lifting.
The risk of back injury increases if the task:
• Is too strenuous
Tasks may be very demanding if they have to be carried out too frequently or for too long with insufficient rest time (e.g. continuous lifting or carrying for long distances.
This is where we will be stopping for today,so till I come your way again,this is Goke Akingbade ( your Safety Guide) signing off.
working speed is imposed by a process which cannot be altered by the worker).
• Involves awkward postures or movements
Working with a bent and/or twisted trunk, raised arms, bent wrists, a bent neck and turned head increases the risk of back injury and should be avoided, as should twisting, turning and bending movements of the trunk, overreaching, sudden movements and repetitive handling.