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Four key controls in preventing manual handling injuries

By Simon MacLean
Senior Risk Manager

Musculoskeletal disorders account for around a third of work-related injuries.

Through October and November, construction sites across Great Britain are being visited by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to raise awareness of health issues around moving and manual handling of materials and to ensure that employers and workers know the risks involved.

'Manual handling’ relates to the moving of items by lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling, and is one of the most common causes of injuries at work. Last year, 40,000 construction workers suffered from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), injuries, aches, pain and discomfort in joints, muscles and bones.

Heavy manual labour, awkward posture and repetitive movements can all contribute to cumulative damage and acute injury. These injuries can have a serious impact on workers’ ability to perform everyday tasks, their quality of life and in some cases their ability to earn a living. Many people can and do suffer from long-term pain and discomfort.  

Four key controls for manual handling

A considerable proportion of workplace injuries result from poor controls or supervision. To maintain the wellbeing of workers, employers are required to provide health and safety information and training, which includes specific information and training on manual handling risks and controls to prevent injury.

With more than 30 years of insuring construction firms, we believe there are four key areas to actively controlling the risks from manual handling.

  • Develop a specific manual handling process which provides clarity and consistency of approach for controlling manual handling risks.
  • When manual handling hazards are identified as part of the general risk assessment process, have this lead to a more detailed task specific manual handling assessment. This assessment must use the hierarchy of control and where possible eliminate the risk though avoiding the activity or using mechanical means.
  • Training and awareness are vital in reducing the risk of manual handling injuries. Managers and supervisors must be proactive in challenging and correcting poor behaviours and technique before an incident occurs.
  • Understand the ergonomics of the work activity and ensure these suit the individual employee’s capabilities. Not all employees will have the same ability to undertake manual handling activities.

Download our free manual handling risk insight

QBE helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance.

To help construction firms provide best practice approaches to controlling risk, we have produced a range of easy-to-read guidance documents. You can find our free manual handling risk insight here. The insight forms part of our Construction Toolkit suite of management information available to our customers.

You can find out more about how QBE helps businesses to manage risk here.

Need to claim? Report it early

Finally, remember that if you have an incident and need to make an insurance claim, it’s important that you report it as soon as possible, ideally the same day. Reporting a claim early can save time and help you to receive any claim payments faster, as well as allowing us to help mitigate the cost of third-party claims.


Your contact

Your contact

Simon MacLean

Simon MacLean

Senior Risk Manager