Lifting and handling bricks and blocks is a highly repetitive task. It can also involve twisting, stooping or reaching upwards. The risk of injury increases with the weight of the block. Workers are particularly at risk if they are repetitively handling blocks heavier than 20 kg.
Injuries from handling heavy concrete and stone block products do not usually occur because of a ‘one-off’ lift. The injuries usually arise from the ongoing repetition of the work and posture during the lifting. These factors can create excessive stresses and strains on the body, which can cause damage to muscles and tendons. Many of these injuries could be prevented if staff followed correct manual handling techniques.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require every employer to avoid hazardous manual handling as far as practicable. Where unavoidable, employers must assess and reduce the risk from manual handling operations at work.
Top Tips to Reduce the Risk of Manual Handling Injury
Avoid – It is common sense, but always avoid handling bricks and blocks as much as you can. Usually stored on pallets or banded and shrink-wrapped, the first choice for handling should be by a lift truck or lorry brick grab.
Use of handling aids – Where small amounts need moving around the site, use a trolley rather than carrying. Trolleys should be pushed rather than pulled.
Plan the lifting/handling – Are any obstructions in the way? Check walkways are clear of obstructions, trip and slip hazards prior to lifting. Where manual handling is unavoidable, ensure there is sufficient access around the brick or block stack, to keep bricks or blocks close to the body and avoid unnecessary overreaching and stretching.
Adopt a good lifting position, with a firm hold and upright posture – Keep the load close to the body and avoid twisting or leaning sideways or jerking the load. Provide staff with training in correct manual handling techniques. Safety Cloud offers ‘manual handling for builders merchants’ via e-learning.
Don’t lift or handle more than can be easily managed – There is a difference between what people can lift and what they can safely lift.
Positioning – If the load needs to go into a precise position, put it down first, then slide into position.
PPE – Steel toe-capped boots or gloves may be needed but clothing should not restrict or impede movement. Consider wearing appropriate gloves when handling blocks and bricks to protect against cuts and abrasions from sharp edges.
Storage height – Try to store heavier items at elbow height rather than below knee height or above shoulder height to reduce strain on the spine.
Repetitive Lifting and rest breaks – Prolonged poor technique when lifting even lightweight items them can lead to severe and lasting injury. If you are re-stacking a collapsed pile of bricks, ensure you take adequate breaks.
Safe Storage of Bricks and Blocks
The stability of stacked bricks and blocks depends upon the condition of the pallets on which blocks are stored and the quality of the banding / shrink-wrapping of packs of bricks. Ideally, stacks should be no higher than 4 high, where pallets, banding and shrink-wrapping is in good condition.
Any stacked packs near perimeter fences should not exceed the height of the fence line, with the next stacks increasing gradually in height in a staggered manner, to prevent any potential of packs falling outside of the curtilage of the premises.
Often customers rip shrink wrapping or cut banding to access individual bricks from ‘server’ packs. This results in split, unstable packs, prone to collapse. These packs should be monitored and loosely shrink-wrapped, to prevent uncontrolled falling bricks. Brick bins are a great solution to this – used to store loose bricks from which customers can pick from, preventing customers from opening and picking from packs.