How to prevent manual handling injuries impacting your business

Statistics published by Safe Work Australia for 2015-16 report the average time off work for a Musculoskeletal Disorder is between 5-6 weeks. The average Workers Compensation claim cost for this type of injury in 2015-16 was $50,000. So the impact on your worker’s compensation premium could be significant, never mind the additional burden of being a person down in your business for an extended period of time.

Some manual tasks and their associated aches and pains can sometimes be easily tolerated by resilient workers; however, this may be ignoring physical symptoms which may be inching a worker closer and closer to a musculoskeletal injury. Hazardous Manual Tasks (HMTs) may include lifting, pushing, reaching or combining a heavy load with a task requiring high dexterity. Identifying HMT’s may not seem obvious when you are so familiar with the surrounds of your operation, so you may need to assemble your “brains trust” and “assess the TILE” as follows:

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1.      Does the TASK involve twisting, stooping, bending, excessive travel, pushing, pulling or precise positioning of the load, sudden movement, inadequate rest or recovery periods, time pressures, supervision or consider ergonomics?

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2.      Does the INDIVIDUAL require unusual strength or height for the activity, are they pregnant, disabled or have a pre-existing health condition? Is specialist knowledge or training required?

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3.      Is the LOAD heavy, awkward to grasp, sharp, hot, cold, difficult to grip, are the contents likely to move or shift?

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4.      Does the ENVIRONMENT consist of space constraints, uneven, slippery or unstable floors, variations in floor levels, extremely hot, cold or humid conditions, poor lighting, poor ventilation, congested paths of travel, gusty winds, clothing or Personal Protective Equipment that restricts movement?

Once you’re across “TILE”, consider the tasks in your process and conduct a risk assessment to determine those tasks where more controls are required.

To ensure you consult all workers and not just your “brains trust”, consider using a discomfort survey to understand what else could be causing physical symptoms, this may help workers modify their tasks before they break themselves!

Ergonomic aids certainly make tasks easier, more sustainable and help people to be more productive. However, these are just one of the many controls available which may reduce the likelihood of an injury.

As for any risk assessment, the hierarchy of controls should be used to determine the right controls for each risk and task.  For manual handling, we first attempt to eliminate the activity. If you can’t, then try to:

  1. Alter the Brewery – Layout, workstation design and working position
  2. Alter Environmental Conditions – Vibration, temperature, lighting and housekeeping
  3. Alter the Systems of Work – Job design, pace and flow of work, shift length and breaks, the need to warm up and exercise to prepare for work.
  4. Change the objects used in the Task – Modify the load being handled, modify tools & equipment and provide mechanical aids
  5. Embed Administrative Controls – Information, training and instruction in manual handling techniques, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and signage, supervision and verification.

Victual has a range of tools that can assist your workers, including guides, risk assessment tools, discomfort survey checklists, online learning modules and tailored training workshops. Contact us now to learn more.