Manual handling operations present a unique set of risks for companies in the manufacturing and packing sector. Mismanagement of risks or poor oversight can cost your company financially and legally. Your health, safety, and environmental officer should conduct periodic reviews and/or risk assessments to help keep employees safe. They should also work with employees to ensure they are properly trained on safe manual handling procedures.  

Manual handling is any activity that involves transporting or supporting a load using hand or body force, examples include:

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 establishes an order of priority based on the risks:

Statistics for manual handling accidents

A 2011 Health and Safety survey showed that manual handling injuries account for one in every three accidents reported each year. Also:

Injuries sustained by the workers can be physically and financially debilitating for the worker. It can also be costly for your company for a multitude of reasons, including: 

However, injuries are preventable if you put the programs in place and actively manage them. Your company’s health and safety officer can even turn this into an opportunity to reduce short and long-term costs associated with employees injuries related to manual handling. 

Steps in manual handling risk assessment

Conducting periodic risk assessments and review of workplace safety is the primary duty of an EHS officer.  Your HSE officer should make use of the Manual handling assessment charts (MAC). This is a tool that helps companies identify the high-risk areas of their manual handling operations. However, MAC doesn’t cover all areas, so your organisation should conduct a risk assessment that is tailored to your company’s operations.

A proper risk assessment plan for manual handling should include:

In addition to the above assessment items, HSE released assessment checklist that can be used by any company. This assessment includes identifying such things as:

Based on your company’s industry, your HSE officer will include other factors that can help protect your workers’ health and well-being. Conducting a functional risk assessment will help companies reduce the risk of injuries to employees and decrease business costs due to: Lost output, compensation claims, and higher insurance premiums.

Case Study Walk-Through: A Typical Packing Company

  1. The tasks: Employees working at a packing station have to transfer boxes weighing 15 kilograms each from the workbench to the pallets on the station’s floor.
  2. Collect relevant technical information about the process​:

3. Identify risks

4. Introduce improvements in the work area

Wrapping Up

Handling of cargo is an integral part of any manufacturing and packaging businesses. While it’s possible to automate such tasks, it may prove impractical for some companies. It’s therefore vital for the HSE officer to identify any risks associated with manual handling operations. By keeping the working environment safe from potential hazards, the company can reduce the risks to employees and avoid unnecessary expenses.