With legislation being introduced into the UK across all aspects of Health and Safety in the Workplace, Manual Handling Law is covered by the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Under these regulations business owners have a responsibility to reduce the risk of injury to their staff from manual handling. As with all UK Health & Safety law, no prescriptive weight limits are in place as an employer needs to look at a situation and risk assess the work involved and implement control measures to reduce the risk. In addition relatively light objects can cause problems if a task is carried out repetitively or it is completed awkwardly. The law aims to promote the idea that the employer should fit the job to the person and not the other way around.
The regulations outline a hierarchy of measures to consider when dealing with manual handling risks. At the top of the hierarchy is to avoid hazardous manual handling where reasonably practicable. The regulations require a business owner to evaluate the work involved with a view to redesigning it so that it is removed completely. This could be by designing a different workflow so the need for handling is eliminated or introducing mechanical equipment to remove the human handling element. Whilst this is easier said than done, looking at an operation may produce savings as alternative methods of production could be identified. In any case a business owner will need to review their manual handling operations to ensure they have met with the regulations and it would be sensible to document this review.
Any risks that cannot be avoided now need to be assessed to see how they can take place as safely as possible. The risk assessment will need to look at all the manual handling hazards that exist and review the nature of the tasks, the loads being moved, the physical capabilities of those involved and the local environment where the handling tasks place.
Now the risks identified have to be reduced to their lowest level which can mean the introduction of additional equipment, safe ways of working and training. Employees can be invaluable in helping put an assessment together as they know what the problem areas are and how best to solve them.
No guidelines are available on how often staff need to be trained but with online training readily available it is possible to provide refresher training every year for nominal expense and time commitment.
Manual handling risk assessments need to be reviewed whenever there are significant changes to the work activity, alterations to the work layout or a change in working practices. If none of those take place it would be reasonable to refresh the assessment every year as evidence that you are complying with the law and continually monitoring your business. By following these simple steps outlined above, the business owner will meet his responsibilities under Manual Handling Law and will protect his workforce from handling injuries.
Nigel J Welford is a qualified Health & Safety professional and believes in making health and safety as simple as possible whilst still being effective and meeting all the regulations. For his free report "The Secret To How Health & Safety Can Improve Your Business And Profits: 7 Everyday Pitfalls To Avoid" from http://www.healthandsafetyintheworkplace.com
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