Manual Handling and Advanced Materials
The advancement of technology and new methods of construction have exciting benefits not only for architecture and internal design, but also have a bearing upon manual handling. This is because new materials have been developed in recent years which still have the required strength as other traditional building materials but are substantially lighter in weight. These include aluminium, carbon fibre and polymer materials.
This lighter weight means that there is a lower risk of builders and construction workers suffering an injury as a result of having to move and manipulate the material into place whilst constructing a building or object.
Not only do advances in the materials benefit the workers who have to handle them, but they will also gain from the development of new equipment and mechanical assistance aids that can be used to move loads into position. For example the introduction of machinery which uses air-powered suction cups to hold and move panes of glass has reduced the strains on the bodies of workers in industries such as car manufacturers.
But there is still a risk even from lightweight materials. Even though they are lighter, they will still have some weight to them, and this can still be substantial in particularly big pieces. Along with weight, the awkwardness of a load to handle plays a critical role in many manual handling injuries, and many advanced materials can still have these characteristics such as being difficult to grip properly or large dimensions which affect a person's centre of gravity whilst carrying it.
So whilst technology is making materials lighter and improving the availability of assistance equipment, manual handling risks are still highly prevalent and workers need to receive proper training in order to safeguard their health and safety and reduce the chances of suffering an injury.