Head of Personal Injury, Andrew Atkinson, takes a look at manual handling, which is responsible for more than one in three accidents at work.
Andrew is available on 01225 462871, by email, or by completing the contact form at the foot of this page.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), manual handling injuries account for more than one in three injuries sustained at work, a figure broadly reflected in the number of workplace claims we deal with. These injuries are often serious enough to result in time off work, and occasionally in severe, long-term disability. Yet, manual handling injuries are also invariably preventable.
What is manual handling?
The HSE define manual handling as covering “a wide variety of activities including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. If any of these tasks are not carried out appropriately there is a risk of injury.”
There is a common misconception that manual handling relates solely to heavy manual work, but it can just as easily apply to lighter activities involving repetitive movements of the back, arms, or legs or from adopting an awkward posture. In addition, existing injuries or conditions can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing a manual handling injury.
Consequences of poor manual handling
Among the most common types of injury and condition resulting from manual handling are:
- Back injuries
- Musculoskeletal conditions in the upper and lower limbs
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Sprains and strains
- Trips, slips and falls
- Broken bones or bruises resulting from dropped objects
Manual Handling Operations Regulations
The principal legislation dealing with manual handling in the workplace is the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. The measures set out in these regulations can be summarised as follows:
- avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as is reasonably practicable;
- risk assess any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot reasonably be avoided; and
- reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.
If an employer fails to carry out their duty under the regulations and an employee suffers an injury, they may be liable to pay compensation to the employee.
Since 2013, following the introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, a breach of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 will not automatically result in the employer being liable; the courts continue, however, to have close regard to the duties set down by the 1992 regulations when considering if an employer has been negligent.
Reducing the risk of a manual handling injury
If a manual handling activity cannot reasonably be avoided, reducing the risk of injury will depend on the nature of the task. Although investing in expensive equipment may be unavoidable, often it’s simply a case of making loads smaller and lighter, or taking steps to reduce the amount of twisting, stooping, or reaching involved by making some simple modifications to the workplace. And relatively inexpensive equipment such as a sack barrow or a hoist can prove invaluable in many situations.
However, the most important step an employer can take to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries is providing employees with adequate, relevant and ongoing manual handling training. With proper training, the right equipment, and supervision, an employer can dramatically reduce the risk of a compensation claim.
But it’s also important to stress that employers can only do so much to avoid manual handling injuries. Employees are expected to undertake activities in accordance with their manual handling training and to use any equipment or other resources provided by their employer.
If you have suffered injury from an accident at work, call us on 01225 462871 and speak directly to one of our specialist solicitors. In most cases, they will be able to provide you with a provisional assessment of your prospects of making a successful claim for compensation.