Up to 12.3 million working days are lost every year due to back pain related injuries. Many of these injuries are caused by a simple failure to follow correct manual handling techniques.

Manual handling is a day-to-day occurance in builders merchants and encompasses everything from lifting and supporting a load through to transporting the load by pushing it, pulling it, carrying it or moving it in any other way that requires physical labour.

Many manual handling injuries are cumulative, caused by carrying out tasks repeatedly over time rather than being caused by a single incident. Common injuries range from pulling a muscle to damaging tissue, trapping a nerve, crushing vertebrae or causing a hernia. Most injuries are to the back, but hands, arms and feet are also vulnerable to fractures and lacerations.

Manual handling should be avoided or minimised as far as practicable by use of mechanical aids, such as a forklift truck, lorry-mounted crane, pump truck or sack truck. However, where manual handling is unavoidable the following 10 rules should be followed:

  1. Train employees correct lifting and handling techniques. Either face to face training or e-learning (such as via Safety Cloud) should be completed by any member of staff before engaging in lifting and handling. We recommend this is refreshed at least every 2 years, or following observation of poor manual handling.
  2. Plan any lift you are going to undertake. If you are carrying or moving something to another location, make sure the path is clear of trip hazards or issues that might make the task unsafe.
  3. Some bulky, unwieldy or heavy items may require a 2-person lift, either to place onto a trolley or to carry over short distances. Staff should not struggle on their own and should seek assistance from another employee.
  4. Employees should avoid or reduce the amount of twisting, stooping and reaching.
  5. Try to avoid lifting from floor level or above shoulder height, especially with heavy loads. Lifting below knee height or above shoulder height puts increased strain on the spine.
  6. Consider how you can minimise carrying distances.
  7. Assess the weight to be carried and consider whether the load can be broken down to smaller, lighter components.
  8. Holding the load close to the body reduces the stress on the lower back.
  9. Smaller items can be maneuvered on trolleys or sack trucks. Ensure any lifting aids are maintained in full working order. Always push rather than pull.
  10. Provide suitable PPE such as steel toe capped boots and gloves (but ensure these don’t restrict movement).