Employers have been warned by the HSE to disregard “off the shelf” manual handling training. The HSE has issued new advice in its guide, ‘Getting help with manual handling risks in your business’, aiming to address what kind of help employers need to tackle the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (“MSDs”) in the workplace.

Manual handling can cause injuries which are part of a wider group of MSDs. MSDs includes any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or tissues in the limbs or back. The Labour Force Survey statistics from 2016/17 show that MSDs account for more than one-third of all work related illnesses and 8.9 million working days were lost due to MSDs.

Research by the HSE has shown that general manual handling training is ineffective and in its advice, has mapped out a route in its guide for employers to follow. The guide contains four sets of questions for the employer, describing the kind of help they may need and case studies on how each example has been put into effect. These four sets of questions are based on:

  • A comprehensive approach to managing MSD risks in your business;
  • MSD risk assessment;
  • Workplace organisation and design changes; and
  • Changing attitudes, behaviours and providing tailored training.

The guide should further assist employers in complying with the Manual Handling Regulations 1992. Under the Regulations, employers must manage manual handling risks to their employees by:

  • Avoiding hazardous manual handling operations so far as reasonable practicable
  • Undertaking sufficient risk assessments of unavoidable hazardous manual handling operations
  • Reducing the risk of injury from those operations so far as reasonably practicable, for example, by providing mechanical assistance

The HSE’s health and work portfolio manager, Geoff Cox, told delegates at the MSD summit on 21 March 2018, businesses were “better off doing nothing” than investing any further in the same manual handling training they have been delivering for the last 25 years. He suggested that working practices be reorganised and redesigned in order to avoid and reduce manual handling, rather than deliver training on it. It was also said that current working practices should be observed and any training should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce.

The HSE guide ‘Getting help with manual handling risks in your business’ can be found here.