In industrial settings, lifting heavy equipment is a common task but it comes with inherent risks. UNISON reports that 300,000 people in the UK suffer from back, neck, and spinal pain due to manual handling accidents in the UK. This can lead to extreme pain, temporary incapacity, or even permanent injury.
Understanding the risks and precautions when handling heavy goods and equipment helps safeguard workers before an accident occurs. This guide helps to provide insights into injury prevention during manual handling, alongside smart lifting techniques, equipment maintenance, and safe workplace practices.
The weight and size of a load will determine whether you can lift it safely so assessing its dimensions should be the first port of call. Typically weightlifting limits are 25kg for men and 16kg for women – anything heavier will require assistance.
For awkwardly shaped or extremely heavy equipment, manual handling should be ruled out entirely. In these cases, lifting equipment should be used to transport the load to avoid damage, both to the item itself and to workers.
Proper Lifting Techniques
Employers have a duty of care to their employees so assessing the risks associated with lifting and transporting heavy equipment should be a priority. Training should be provided to workers regarding manual handling, including the right technique for carrying heavy or bulky loads while at work.
When smart lifting techniques are applied, serious injuries such as back sprains, muscle strain, and spinal injuries can be avoided.
Heavy objects should never be lifted over shoulder level but you can bend down with your hips and knees to pick up the object before holding it close to your torso and straightening your legs. Having a tight hug on the item will spread its weight across your body for better balance.
Using Appropriate Equipment
When loads are extremely heavy, using appropriate equipment such as lifting slings could be required to move goods safely. Overhead cranes, forklifts, and hoists are instrumental in anchoring, fixing, or supporting equipment that is dangerous for employees to transport manually.
It is essential, however, that this equipment is regularly subject to risk assessment and maintenance inspections to ensure employee health and safety. Each must clearly be marked with a ‘safe working load’ and training given to anyone due to be operating it.
Clearing the Work Area
Even when the appropriate training and equipment are provided, the work floor must be cleared of any tripping hazards. Obstacles, debris, or refuse could potentially impede the lifting process and increase the risk of potential injury.
You can’t always eliminate manual handling, so designing the work floor so walkways are left open can help prevent an accident before it occurs.