MANUAL HANDLING RISK ASSESSMENT
Manual Handling involves more than just the lifting and/or carrying of weights. It can include any activity requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, push, pull, carry or otherwise move or restrain any moving or stationary object. Only a very small number of manual handling injuries are caused by lifting heavy weights. Often, seemingly simple activities such as repetitive reaching, twisting and bending, as well as poor sitting, standing and typing postures can contribute to an injury occurrence.
Supervisors and managers have a responsibility to ensure that all staff under their control follow correct manual handling procedures. This duty extends not only to proactive strategies to prevent manual handling injuries during normal duties, but also after an employee has returned to work following either an injury, a period of annual leave, or an extended absence.
As part of the consultative process, employers are required, in consultation with their employees, to identify, assess, and control risks arising from manual handling activities in the workplace. Employers are also required to ensure that all plant, equipment, containers, work practices and the working environment are designed to be safe and pose no risk to the health and safety of their employees. Therefore, managers and supervisors are encouraged to use the Code of Practice and discuss manual handling activities in their work place.
The University's Manual Handling Policy has embraced the West Australian Code of Practice on Manual Handling, which should be used by managers, supervisors and employees as a guide to the prevention of manual handling injuries. The code clearly explains the role employers and employees play in avoiding injuries, including information on training, supervision, consultation, and the reporting of hazards. Step by step guidance is provided in the identification, assessment and control of workplace risks and hazards. A hard copy of the code of practice is available from the OSH Section, or WorkSafe Western Australia on (08) 9327 8777.
Below is a summarised version of the Code of Practice and should be used to complete the Risk Assessment Form and provide any risk controls to be implemented.
Records associated with the implementation of the Code of Practice should be maintained in a central location and be available to relevant safety and health representatives and/or committees. Such records will make the task of review and evaluation easier.
The records may include information on:
- the manual handling injury prevention programme;
- risk assessment reports;
- design modifications to, and specifications for, plant and work processes;
- risk control measures implemented; and
- training and education activities.
Risk Identification, Assessment and Control
The Code of Practice provides guidance on the following three key stages in the process of reducing manual handling injuries:
- identification of risk factors in the workplace likely to cause manual handling injury;
- detailed assessment of particular risk factors; and
- principles and examples of control measures to eliminate or reduce risk.
The purpose of risk identification is to identify and place in priority order the jobs or tasks which require risk assessment.
There are three basic steps to risk identification:
- analysis of work place injury records;
- consultation with employees; and
- direct observation or inspection of the task or work area.
The assessment should be made in consultation with the employees who are required to carry out the manual handling and their safety and health representatives, if any.
Risk assessment is particularly critical whenever:
- an injury has occurred arising from a work process and/or practice; and
- a work process and/or practice is introduced or modified.
In assessing a job or a task, all risk factors should be considered, and in determining appropriate control measures, the interaction of all the factors should be taken into account.
Movements, Posture and Layout during Manual Handling
Actions and Movements
Actions and Movements should be performed:
- so they won't cause undue discomfort or pain;
- smoothly and with control;
- in a balanced and comfortable position;
- without extreme ranges of joint movement; and
- without repetitive bending, twisting and overreaching.
Working Posture and Position
The employee should be able to:
- adopt several positions;
- adopt safe and healthy working postures; and
- have periodic rest breaks if having to adopt one posture for long periods.
Task and Object-Questions
Duration and Frequency of Manual Handling
The risk of injury rises with the increasing frequency, repetition and duration of manual handling activity by any one employee in a work period.
The same manual handling task repeated over long periods of time may induce feelings of monotony boredom. This reduction in alertness may also have important safety consequences.
There are several factors which influence a person's ability to continue prolonged exertion:
- available energy reserves;
- the employee's physical fitness; and
- the relative work load, (that is, the proportion of the employee's physical capacity engaged by the task).
Location of Loads and Distances Moved
Distances over which loads are manually handled should be as short as possible. The longer the distance the lighter the load that can be carried without increased risk.
Risk increases if:
- the load is located above the employee's shoulder height;
- below mid-thigh height;
- requires extended reach; and
- requires manoeuvring to be placed accurately into the position.
Weights and Forces
The weight of any load which is manually handled should be considered in relation to other key risk factors including, in particular:
- frequency and duration;
- position of load relative to the body;
- distance moved; and
- characteristics of the load.
Where heavier objects are handled, more care is needed in the assessment of risk and in the application of appropriate control measures.
Characteristics of Loads and Equipment
Characteristics of loads and equipment to consider when assessing risk:
- surface texture;
- grips; and
Work organisation factors that may influence risk by interacting with other risk factors include:
- staffing levels;
- availability of equipment;
- work schedules;
- shift work;
- task variety;
- rest breaks;
- recovery time; and
- work procedures.
Factors in the work environment that influence risk include:
- space; and
- floors and other surfaces underfoot.
Housekeeping and footwear are associated factors that have particular relevance for risk of slips, trips and falls while handling loads.
Skills and Experience
Employees should have the knowledge and ability required to perform the task. A mismatch can cause an increased risk of injury.
An increased level of care is needed in the assessment of risk and the application of appropriate control measures for young workers. As a guide, the younger the worker, the more care that needs to be taken.
For older workers, increasing age may be associated with decreasing physical capacity. However, age alone is not sufficient for assessing risk, as older workers may be able to compensate any physical loss by their experience and skill at the task. All relevant risk factors should be taken into account.
The type of clothing an individual wears at work may hinder safe manual handling, for example, tight clothing which restricts movements will adversely affect manual handling technique. When specialist clothing is required, such as uniform or personal protective equipment, its effect on risk needs to be assessed.
In some instances, employees may have special needs that require consideration in the risk assessment process. These needs may be permanent or temporary, for example:
- returning to work from an illness;
- extended leave of absence;
- specific disability etc.
3. RISK CONTROL
If a manual handling task is assessed as being a risk, the employer should take all practicable steps to control the risk. To this end, the employer should:
- redesign the task;
- where redesign is impracticable or until it is completed, provide and arrange, as appropriate, mechanical aids, personal protective equipment and team lifting; and
- ensure that the employees concerned receive training and supervision that is appropriate in relation to action taken under paragraphs a) and b).
The employer should give effect to the above in consultation with employees who are required to carry out the manual handling and their safety and health representatives, if any.
Risk Control is the process of eliminating or reducing identified and assessed risk factors.
Risk control can best be accomplished by a combination of:
- job redesign;
- mechanical handling equipment; and
- provision or training.
If you require professional assistance with your risk assessment, or risk controls please contact theOccupational Safety and Health Officer for a list of ergonomic consultants who can conduct a manual handling/ergonomic assessment of your area and provide recommendations to prevent further injuries occurring. The cost of the assessment will have to be met by your cost centre.
Care should be taken to ensure that further risks to safety and health are not created by the application of control methods aimed at reduction of manual handling risks.
Manager, Occupational Safety and Health, Mr Mike Gavin, (08)6304 2302, firstname.lastname@example.org , or
WorkSafe Western Australia.