The Dangers of Manual Handling
Introduction to Manual Handling Dangers
Although technological advancements have made some work environments less dependent upon manual handling, plenty of jobs still require workers to move and lift heavy items. The constant lifting and moving of weighty items can easily lead to injury.
If workers are not taught the proper techniques in manipulating heavy materials, both businesses and workers suffer. Businesses risk losing workers to long-term injuries, while workers face the possibility of doing irreversible damage to themselves.
Employees and businesses alike need to know how workers can be harmed by manipulating heavy materials and what sort of injuries can be sustained from improper handling.
Heavy Items and Fast Movements
The manipulation of heavy/awkward materials is not the cause of injury... it is the improper manipulation of hefty materials which can cause the injury. There are many unsafe methods of manipulating a dense object that, if done constantly, prove dangerous for a person's muscular health. Employees within a work environment that is focused on heavy lifting also have to deal with manipulating those objects at a constant pace. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for a worker to fall into the trap of consistently utilising an unsafe heavy lifting method, which is why safe manual handling at work is so important. Two particular lifting methods pose the most danger to workers: picking up a hefty object using the back muscles and manipulating heavy material at a rapid pace.
Workers must avoid picking up an object from the ground using just their back muscles. Using this practice even just once can overexert, or exhaust, the back muscles. Exhausted back muscles are vulnerable to ligament strains, sprains, or tears. Even trying to pick an object up from the floor whilst seated rather than standing up and correctly raising the item can cause an injury.
Using any muscle consistently to raise a weighty item can lead to muscle overexertion or exhaustion. Unless a worker has participated in weight training, his or her muscles are not capable of lifting heavy weights on a frequent basis without tiring. Tired muscles, if ignored and still put into use, are vulnerable to injury.
When lifting a series of heavy items, another lifting method for workers to avoid is manipulating heavy items at a rapid pace. If a worker picks up an item and then moves it immediately with no pause, not only does the worker risk overexertion, the worker also risks developing a direct ligament strain, sprain, or tear.
To visualize what the rapid raising and moving of heavy items can do to a worker, think of a swinging rubber band with a weight on the end of it. The worker's arm muscles are the rubber band and the heavy item is the weight on the end of the rubber band. If the rubber band swings at a rapid pace, eventually the rubber band will rip because the fibers of the band were torn slowly in supporting the weight. In the same way, the ligaments of a worker's arm muscles will become damaged as the worker swings the heavy item, eventually leading to a full-on injury - such as a tear.
Manual Handling Training
Both of these improper lifting methods - although not the only wrong ways to manipulate heavy objects - are two of the most alluring traps for untrained workers to fall into. Without any knowledge or manual handling training in how to avoid using these methods, workers are almost guaranteed to utilise them. This leaves them more susceptible to some sort of muscle injury.
In general, workers untrained in proper heavy weight handling are unlikely to know the signs of muscle exertion or how to address its symptoms. They will probably brush off the burn or ache in their muscles and continue forth with their work. Experiencing either of those symptoms is indicative of the tiring of the muscles. If those feelings are felt consistently or ignored for a period of time, they can eventually turn into ligament injures. This is why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rated "overexertion in lifting or lowering" as the top cause of injuries that compelled employees to take multi-day leaves.
When injuries are severe enough to warrant multi-day leaves, they may also be severe enough to linger for the rest of a worker's life. The multi-day leave may turn into a permanent situation where the employee can no longer work at the establishment or indeed any other job that requires manual labour. In cases like that, workers tend to file for compensation from their employer. The employers sometimes have to shell out a large sum of cash for the worker's troubles.
Muscle damage from manual handling is an important issue that needs to be addressed by both workers and employers. Workers need to be trained to recognize and address the signs of muscle exertion before it turns into overexertion. If everyone was trained to a suitable standard, a major cause of injury-related multi-day leaves and worker compensation lawsuits would be eradicated. Many workers would be saved from the pain and cost of ligament injuries and businesses would be saved from dealing with an injured worker.
Although workers may be focused on the next paycheck, they must keep in mind and they must force their place of work to keep in mind that their body cannot naturally adjust to certain activities. A few weeks of heavy lifting does not cause the muscles to build an immunity to the effects of constant, heavy usage. Workers must receive protection from the effects of heavy lifting in the form of training. Otherwise, workers may be harmed unnecessarily in the process of doing their job. A body torn down from work is no good to the worker who owns the body, nor the employer who is attempting to utilise the body.
The Business Case for Providing Manual Handling Training to Employees
From construction and demolition sites, through to care homes and offices, and every other type of business and industry, without healthy employees, employers cannot run a successful business. If the health of a business' workers is under threat on a consistent basis thanks to unsafe working practices, employers are endangering the stability of their business. Denying workers the knowledge of how to prevent themselves from obtaining possibly life-altering injuries is not only irresponsible of management, but also dangerous.
When it comes to manual handling, aside from eliminating the danger completely if it is reasonably practical, the best way to ensure a population of healthy workers and thus a more stable business is for the employers to train workers in how to lift, move, and handle heavy objects with as little muscle exhaustion as possible. This manual handling training will be even more beneficial if it is a tailored programme designed for their particular workplace rather than a generic, off-the-shelf course.