Is your Manual Handling Training specific to the loads handled in your workplace?

Manual Handling Training specific to the loads handled in your workplace

Is your Manual Handling Training specific to the loads handled in your workplace?

Does your manual handling training consist of lifting a box containing reams of photocopying paper?

Does your daily work involve lifting boxes containing reams of photocopying paper?

If the answer is no, then it is time to reconsider the manual handling training course currently being delivered in your workplace.

Manual handling in the workplace is covered by health and safety legislation: the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 Chapter 4 of Part 2: Manual Handling of Loads.

According to the Health and Safety Authority, manual handling training is not mandatory for all staff. Manual Handling Regulations only apply to a work activity that ‘by reason of its characteristics or of unfavourable ergonomic conditions, involves risk, particularly of back injury, to employees.’ A worker who only lifts light loads at waist height, for example, would not be at risk – and sending this worker on a manual handling training course would indeed be a waste of time. 

However, where manual handling does involve a risk of injury the employer needs to act. A third of all workplace injuries reported to the HSA are caused by manual handling activities, and those injuries are a leading cause of work disability.  

The first option should be to remove or reduce the need for manual handling. Just providing training will not reduce injury rates and will not protect anyone. Manual handling training needs to be specific and relevant to the tasks involved. So, if your job involves moving heavy barrels around a warehouse, the training should reflect this. In other words, you don’t need to be told how to lift up a box.

An example of a court case resulting from the delivery of manual handling training that was not relevant to the loads handled in the workplace is  Meus v Dunnes Stores | [2014] IEHC 639 | High Court of Ireland | Judgment | Law | CaseMine

Mary Carolan of the Irish Times wrote the following report on the case:

A Dunnes Stores worker who injured her lower back while loading a trolley with heavy boxes has been awarded €85,000 by the High Court.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr said Justyna Meus suffered a significant injury which has adversely affected her work and social life.

Ms Meus (39), who has since returned to her native Poland, had sued Dunnes Stores as a result of the accident in the chain’s store in Newbridge, Co Kildare on April 6th, 2007.

Mr Justice Barr said Ms Meus was required in her work as shop assistant to fetch a number of large boxes from the storeroom. The boxes weighed between 13 to 15kg and contained a number of suitcases of varying sizes.

Ms Meus said, on the day of the accident, the boxes in the storeroom were stacked high above her head and she had to knock them off the top of the pile and let them fall to the ground before putting them on a trolley. She suffered her injury while loading her second trolley, the judge said.

He said Ms Meus lifted a box to her thigh level and then raised her right knee to give the box an extra lift so she could put it on the trolley top shelf. It was while performing this manoeuvre that she hurt her back.

Mr Justice Barr said there was a large dispute between the parties on whether Ms Meus received any manual handling training on the day of her induction in to Dunnes Stores in 2006.

He said Ms Meus struck him as a truthful witness. She had said she was given a tour of the premises, a uniform and a handbook and was told to sign the record card.

The judge found Ms Meus did not receive adequate training in respect of the duties of her employment.

Even if he was wrong on that, the judge said he considered the training stated to have been given to Ms Meus inadequate. A demonstration with a box of A4 paper was not remotely comparable to the lifting exercise Ms Meus had to do in the course of her duties in the store’s men’s department, he said.

The judge said there was also no proper follow up to the training. If this had been the case, Dunnes Stores would have learned Ms Meus was using an incorrect and dangerous method of lifting items. This should have been spotted and corrected, he said.

Mr Justice Barr said Ms Meus has fairly constant pain in her back and he awarded €60,000 in general damages, €20,000 damages for pain and suffering in the future, and €5,000 agreed damages and costs.

He granted a stay on his order in the event of an appeal by Dunnes Stores, on condition €20,000 is paid out immediately to Ms Meus.

We strongly advise that each company devises and documents a Manual Handling training policy specific to it s workplace. Devising this policy involves identifying the loads handled by each employee in the company, assessing if there is a risk of injury posed by handling these loads, avoiding manual handling if at all possible by introducing mechanical aids and/or changing the operation process, and simply trying to eliminate the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable.

It is important that employers train all employees (paid and unpaid) on the loads in their workplace. A new employee joining the company and bringing along an in-date manual handling training certificate from a previous employer or a training scheme simply will not suffice, unless the loads handled during the training course were an exact replica of those that will be handled in the employees new place of work.

Temporary employees, agency staff, volunteers, transition year students, job placement scheme workers – all require assessment for manual handling risk and appropriate measures taken.

If you would like assistance devising a manual handling policy specific to your workplace, please contact us. We have over 18 years experience in delivering manual handing training and advising companies in this area.