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What Are Safe Manual Handling Techniques

Safe manual handling techniques

Table of Contents

Sharon McCulloch

Healthcare workers know that the safety of their patients depends on the safety of the manual handling techniques they use. Manual handling techniques are the practices and procedures healthcare workers use when they move and handle things while they work. 

It is important to use the correct manual handling technique to reduce the risk of injury and protect the patient and the healthcare worker. Some healthcare workers’ most common manual handling techniques include mechanical aids, such as hoists or transfer boards, or proper body mechanics, such as the correct way to lift. 

Manual handling is the physical effort to move another person or object (by pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, lowering, or restraining). Thus, as a nurse or personal care provider, you should know that manual handling involves more than just physical assistance with client mobility. But what exactly is manual handling for healthcare workers? 

Patient Manual handling for healthcare workers is defined as any action that necessitates the use of physical force to:

  • Lift and lower the patients
  • Carry, move, shift and roll the patient
Lifting and moving patients

What Are The Hazards Associated With Manual Handling?

In manual handling, the term “hazard” is commonly understood to refer to anything that puts employees at risk of developing MSDs or other injuries.

According to TILEO’s classification system, the following are the most often encountered movement and manual handling hazards:

  • Tasks: involve manual labour that is excessively taxing, involve travelling vast distances, and have few opportunities for rest and recovery.
  • Individual: refers to a worker’s unique set of circumstances, including but not limited to their level of education, work experience, familiarity with the task at hand, physical abilities, and injury history.
  • Load: objects/people that are too heavy, too huge, difficult to grab or reach, and that obstruct the worker’s perspective, as well as those that are unbalanced, unstable, or if contents can move, can all pose this risk.
  • Environment: dangerous conditions due to a lack of enough working space, floors that are uneven or slick, unstable platforms, heat stress, and inadequate illumination.
  • Other contributors: include repetitive activities performed at a frenetic pace and extended periods of labour followed by little to no relaxation

Can Manual Handling Cause Injuries?

Injuries to the muscles and joints sustained as a result of manual handling that is not safe (such as improper lifting techniques, poor posture, and moving goods that are too large for a single person) can have a significant negative effect on a person’s productivity and overall quality of life. 

Manual handling injuries can cause a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems, such as:

  • Sprains and tears in the muscle tissue;
  • Torn tendons or ligaments;
  • Disks in the spine that have ruptured;
  • Shoulder/elbow tendonitis
  • Conditions like hernias in the abdominal cavity;
  • An injury to the nervous system

It is important to use the correct technique to reduce the risk of injury and protect the patient and the healthcare worker. Some healthcare workers’ most common manual handling techniques include mechanical aids, such as hoists or transfer boards, or proper body mechanics, such as the correct way to lift.

What Are The 6 Steps Of Safe Manual Handling?

Here are six actions to take to guarantee that manual handling training at your business is effective:

  • Identify potential manual handling hazards in the workplace: Start by examining and identifying potential manual handling hazards in the workplace. This entails identifying work, equipment, or conditions that could result in injuries or strain.
  • Implement control measures: Once hazards have been identified, effective measures must be implemented to mitigate the risks. To lessen the likelihood of injuries, mechanical aids, modified workstations, or organisational modifications may be implemented.
  • Build a manual handling training module: Create a comprehensive manual handling package covering proper lifting techniques, body mechanics, ergonomics, and risk awareness. Ensure the training content matches your workplace’s specific demands and duties.
  • Manage workplace safety orientations and job-specific training: Incorporate manual handling training into new employee workplace health and safety (WHS) orientations. Individuals who often conduct manual handling duties should also receive job-specific training.
  • Refresher training should be scheduled: Techniques for manual handling and excellent practises may disappear from memory with time. Regular refresher training sessions should be scheduled to reinforce knowledge and skills and to address any updates or changes in procedures.
  • Review manual handling hazard controls: Manual handling hazard controls should be reviewed regularly to ensure their efficacy. Evaluate their impact on decreasing manual handling hazards and make necessary changes or modifications to ensure a safe working environment.
Manual handling injuries

Manual Handling Task

Activities involving lifting, carrying, pushing, or dragging things or loads by hand are called manual handling tasks. If not performed correctly, these tasks can cause manual handling injuries. Good manual handling skills include adopting optimal body mechanics and lifting techniques to reduce the danger of harm.

It is critical to plan ahead of time and implement risk controls to ensure safe and easy manual handling tasks. Identifying potential dangers, analysing the load and environment, and applying suitable control measures to decrease the risk of injury are all part of this process.

Repetitive tasks, which include performing the same actions repeatedly, can raise the risk of musculoskeletal problems. To minimise overexertion and strain on the body, it is critical to mix jobs and take regular breaks.

Manual handling injuries can also be caused by awkward postures such as bending, twisting, or reaching. It is critical to maintain a neutral posture and to use equipment or help as needed to decrease strain on the body.

What Are The 5 Characteristics Of Hazardous Manual Tasks?

The five characteristics of hazardous manual tasks are:

  1. Repetitive or sustained force: Repeated or continuous use of physical pressure while performing a task.
  2. Sustained or awkward posture: Keeping a stance for a long time or adopting uncomfortable bodily positions while doing a task is known as sustained or awkward posture.
  3. High or sudden force: The application of a high or sudden force that could cause harm.
  4. Vibration exposure: Consistent mechanical vibration exposure might result in musculoskeletal diseases.
  5. Repetitive movement: Perform the same motion or action repeatedly to increase your risk of strain or injury.

What Are The 4 Key Areas Of manual Handling?

Personnel doing a manual handling risk assessment should think about four things: the nature of the task, the capabilities of the individual engaged, the characteristics of the load, and the layout of the surroundings. The acronym TILE can be used to remember these aspects quickly and easily.

What Are The 5 Types Of Manual Handling?

The five types of manual handling involve:

  1. Lifting: The act of physically raising or elevating a load from a lower to a higher position.
  2. Lowering: The regulated movement of gently placing or lowering a burden from a higher to a lower place.
  3. Pushing: Using force to move a burden away from oneself or in a specific direction, generally with the hands or other body parts.
  4. Pulling: Using pulling actions or tools to draw or bring a weight closer to oneself or in a desired direction.
  5. Carrying: carrying or transferring weight from one location to another by manually holding, supporting, or manipulating them.

What Does Risk Analysis Of Manual Handling Entail?

The following factors contribute to greater injury risks in manual handling tasks:

  • Work environment: Prolonged stationary postures can raise dangers.

  • Workspace layout: Poorly constructed or tight areas create unnatural postures.

  • Weight of the object: Heavy burdens make lifting and carrying difficult.

  • Object placement: Lifting objects above shoulder height or from low places increases dangers.

  • Duration and frequency: Risks increase when things are handled often or over long periods.

  • Object condition: Poor construction or maintenance equipment demands greater effort to manage.

  • Awkward loads: Difficult-to-grasp, slippery, or awkwardly shaped weights pose a risk.

  • Handling living humans or animals: Lifting or restraining people or animals might result in sprains and injuries.

What Are The 5 Risk Controls For Manual Handling Tasks Suggested By Safe Work Australia?

These risk mitigation strategies can be implemented if risk eradication is not an option: 

  1. Reduce manual handling risks by optimising work area design and layout.
  2. Reduce strain and pain in manual handling duties by maintaining adequate workplace heights that support healthy posture.
  3. Reduce manual handling by redesigning tasks and implementing mechanical aids for increased efficiency and less physical strain.
  4. Prevent repetitive strain injuries by distributing manual handling activities among workers, providing for various actions, and limiting extended periods of repetitive motion.
  5. Provide extensive training on basic manual handling practices, including lifting techniques and proper equipment usage, to enhance safety and reduce the risk of injuries.

What Are The Risk Of Manual Handling

Manual handling activities can cause injuries to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the upper and lower extremities and the back. One-third or more of all incidents of work-related illness are due to them.

Workers who often lift, carry, and position large objects or who are at risk for musculoskeletal diseases can benefit greatly from participating in a manual handling course.

Even though danger exists in every industry, healthcare is singled out as particularly hazardous because of the prevalence and variety of manual handling tasks performed by healthcare professionals.

Manual handling risks

Manual Handling Risk Assessment Definition

A Manual Handling Risk Assessment is critical to any workplace safety program. It is a formal procedure that evaluates the risks associated with manual tasks such as lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling. 

The assessment aims to identify any potential hazards that could cause injury or harm to employees. To properly assess the risks, the assessor should identify all tasks involving manual handling and evaluate the risk factors. 

These factors include the following:

  • Type of object or individual being handled,
  • The distance needs to be moved, 
  • The number of repetitions, and 
  • The presence or absence of appropriate tools and equipment.

The assessment should also consider any environmental factors that may increase the risk, such as slippery floors or inadequate lighting. 

Once the risks have been identified, the assessor can create a plan of action to reduce or eliminate them. By performing a Manual Handling Risk Assessment, employers can ensure that their employees are protected from potential hazards and reduce their risk of injury.

Manual Handling Risk Assessment Example

The elements that increase the likelihood of injury during manual handling often correlate directly.

As the frequency, size, or length of potentially dangerous manual handling grows, so does the likelihood of injury and the necessity of more stringent control mechanisms or a more advanced level in the hierarchy of controls. 

Example of Potential Dangers Associated with Manual Handling- SafeWork Australia identifies the following features of dangerous manual tasks:

  • Stress on the back and shoulders from repeatedly moving heavy objects/people.
  • Carrying individuals over great distances requires a force that is sustained.
  • The application of high force, such as when raising, lowering, or transporting heavy individuals/objects.
  • The sudden application of force, such as when throwing or grabbing something
  • Movements that are repeated over and over, such as lifting, moving and rolling patients.
  • “Sustained Posture” refers to holding plasterboard sheeting in place as it is nailed into place.
  • Squatting while working on a machine or a vehicle in an awkward position is an example of an awkward posture.
  • Operating heavy  machines can cause whole-body vibration, which can cause a variety of health problems.
Manual handling risk assessment

Manual Handling Risks Can Be Mitigated By Following These Steps:

  • Avoid performing any potentially hazardous manual handling until necessary. Evaluate the situation and determine if the object or patient needs to be moved or if there are other, more efficient options you may employ, such as the use of manual handling equipment.
  • If this is impossible, you must determine the potential for harm due to unavoidable manual handling.
  • Keep serious hazards to a minimum as much as possible. One needs to undergo manual handling training instructions to accomplish this.
Reduce risk in manual handling

What Are The 4 Elements Of A Manual Handling Risk Assessment?

The four elements of a manual handling risk assessment are:

  1. Load: The term “load” refers to the attributes of the thing being handled, including its weight, size, shape, stability, and potential risks.
  2. Environment: Considers elements including space restrictions, flooring conditions, lighting, temperature, and impediments or dangers when determining the environment where the manual handling operation is performed.
  3. Task: Concentrates on how the manual handling task is carried out, taking into account elements such the time, frequency, repetition, posture, and methods used.
  4. Individual: Takes into account the strength, fitness, training, and prior injuries of the person performing the manual handling task, as well as their physical capabilities and limits.

How Is A Manual Handling Risk Assessment Conducted?

Risk assessments are routinely practiced to ensure the safety of manual handling operations. Businesses must do a manual handling risk assessment if employees may be hurt in the process. They are accountable for developing procedures and preventative measures based on the findings.

Risk assessment manual handling is an invaluable tool for employers looking to reduce the risk of injury to their employees. By carrying out a risk assessment, employers can identify potential hazards and then take steps to reduce the risk of injury.

Methods for evaluating dangers associated with manual handling include:

  • Select the Task :

Inquire of the employees as to the method by which the job is completed. Determine the overall parameters and key stages of the manual handling process—this aids in establishing a time frame for when an accident might occur.

  • Find the relevant facts:

This encompasses more technical details, such as the load factors of TILE (Tile acronym stands for Task, Individual, Load, and Environment). The load’s mass, dimensions, and form must be considered. The employee’s technical skill level, the work area’s size, frequency and quantity of physical lifting and carrying, and so on should be considered.

  • Identify the potential risks:

Examine the potential risks and factors that could affect your safety. To determine the extent to which given factors pose a danger during manual handling, supporting evidence must be gathered.

  • Evaluate areas for development :

Manual handling risk assessment findings should be used in consultation with employees. These changes should lessen or eliminate the occurrence of injuries sustained during manual handling.

  • Analyse the modifications:

The effectiveness of the new measures should be monitored regularly by a staff member. Risk assessments are an ongoing process that requires constant maintenance and adjustments.

 Let’s better understand some of the safe manual handling techniques.

What Are The 6 Steps To Safely Lift A Heavy Object?

The six steps for lifting a patient or an object are as follows:

  • Maintain a broad base of support: Keep your feet apart to provide a strong foundation for lifting.
  • Squat down, bending solely at the hips and knees: Squat while maintaining your back straight and avoiding any undue bending.
  • Maintain good posture: Avoid slouching or slumping forwards during the lift by keeping your spine upright.
  • Lift slowly with your hips and knees straightened (not your back): Engage your leg muscles to progressively lift the load, depending on your lower body strength rather than your back.
  • Hold the load close to your body, at your belly button: To reduce strain, keep the object or patient as close to your centre of gravity as feasible. Avoid reaching or extending your arms excessively.
  • Take care when lowering the load: Lower the load slowly by bending your hips and knees while keeping your back straight.

What Are The 5 Principles Of Manual Handling?

The five manual handling principles, commonly known as the five Ps, for avoiding injuries are as follows:

  1. Plan: Plan by examining the weight, the surrounding environment, and any potential risks. Determine the best method and technique for safely lifting the thing.
  2. Position: Align your body and feet with the weight by centring your body and feet. Before beginning the lift, have a stable and balanced stance.
  3. Pick: Lift the load with proper lifting techniques and good posture. Bend from your knees and hips, keeping your back straight, and lift the load using the strength of your leg muscles.
  4. Proceed: After lifting the burden, carefully and gradually advance towards your desired spot. Avoid jerks or rapid movements that will strain your body.
  5. Place: Set the load down safely and with control. Lower the load with your leg muscles and have a decent posture throughout. Place the load in a secure and stable location.

What Are The 3 Duties Of Manual Handling Operations?

The following are the three responsibilities of manual handling operations:

  1. Reduce the risk of hazardous manual handling tasks as much as possible.
  2. Evaluate any potentially dangerous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  3. Reduce the risk of injury as much as is reasonably possible.

How To Avoid Workplace Injuries?

Workplace injuries can include carpal tunnel syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive tasks or bad ergonomics.

Maintaining a stable posture and avoiding acute pain is critical for injury prevention. When lifting, bending the knees slightly and keeping the heavy load near the body will help distribute body weight correctly and prevent strain.

A firm platform and level shoulders are essential for avoiding back injury. Taking frequent breaks, seeking advice, and adhering to health and safety guidelines are critical for avoiding workplace injuries.

It is critical to avoid twisting or leaning sideways, especially if the back is bowed. Proper lifting techniques, ergonomic considerations, and adherence to safety standards are all important in preventing industrial or workplace injuries.

What Are Some Unsafe Manual Handling Techniques?

Given the significant risk of harm to both staff and patients, the following manual handling procedures are deemed dangerous and are to be avoided:

  • Drag Lift: Drag lifting, which can result in strain and damage, is lifting via the arms or under the armpits.
  • Australian Lift: A lifting technique that can injure the musculoskeletal system by using the shoulders.
  • Orthodox Lift: Lifting in an armchair or cradle position increases the danger of strain and damage.
  • Neck Hold: A holding technique that puts tension on the caregiver’s neck by encircling the patient’s arms.
  • Through Arm: Fully lifting patients manually, restricting their independence and increasing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries for both patients and caregivers.

What Are The 7 Safe Lifting Techniques?

Regardless of your level of experience, there are 7 safe lifting techniques to keep in mind:

  1. Establish a solid support base: Position your feet shoulder-width apart, ensuring stability and balance before lifting.
  2. Bend from your hips and knees: Use a proper squatting motion by bending your hips and knees while keeping your back straight. Avoid excessive bending or relying solely on your back.
  3. Grip the load firmly: Maintain a secure grip on the object you are lifting to prevent it from slipping or shifting during the lift.
  4. Keep the load close to your body: Hold the load as close to your body as possible to minimise strain and maintain better control over the weight.
  5. Avoid lifting and twisting or side bending: Refrain from twisting your body or bending sideways while lifting, as this can strain your back and increase the risk of injury. Instead, pivot your feet or take small steps to change direction.
  6. Control your posture: Maintain proper posture throughout the lift, keeping your spine aligned and avoiding slouching or rounding the shoulders.
  7. Engage your core stability muscles: Activate your core muscles, including the abdominal and back muscles, just before and during the lift to provide additional support and stability to your spine.

Safe Manual Handling Techniques

Undoubtedly, manual handling is a necessary part of many jobs. But it can be dangerous if it’s not done correctly. That’s why knowing the correct, safe manual handling techniques is important.

  • Prepare a risk analysis for manual handling:

Conducting a risk assessment is crucial for evaluating the potential dangers in the workplace and determining how to eliminate best or mitigate them. 

  • Train the employees on proper manual handling techniques:

The state laws and regulations should serve as a reference for any training that takes place in the workplace.

  • Use tools and other mechanical help:

Make use of mechanical tools and help whenever and wherever it is possible to do so.

  • Make a plan:

Train yourself(or your employees) to lift items according to a predetermined plan rather than randomly moving heavy objects or people. Which exact location will this occupy? Can one employee hoist it, or do the other workers need to assist? Is there anything blocking the route along this path? If the item were placed in its intended location, would there be sufficient room to do so?

These concerns should be addressed before anyone on the team begins lifting(manual handling).

  • Dress Appropriately:

The procedure is impacted by clothing that is too constricting and inappropriate footwear. Before any manual handling, healthcare workers must wear suitable clothes. Also, ensure they have the appropriate protection gear, such as protective gear, gloves, and other items.

  • Be Aware of Your Boundaries:

If a specific weight is too heavy, personnel should be instructed not to raise it by themselves but rather to seek the assistance of others or to make use of a mechanical device.

  • It is preferable to pull than to push:

Regarding handling things manually, pushing is always preferable to pulling because it is safer. When you pull, you put many of your muscles in danger of injury, especially if you pull too hard. While making an effort, ensure that the path is free of any obstructions (human and other objects).

  •  Get Your Knees Bent:

The most important thing to remember when lifting heavy objects is to kneel and bend before picking up the burden. You risk injuring the muscles in your back if you bend your back too much. Do not do this.

  • Manage the burden:

If you’re carrying anything heavy, moving it closer to your body’s centre can help reduce the strain on your back. It’s best to practise maintaining your torso upright and not bend at the waist or twist as you handle heavy loads.

Let’s get familiar with some common types of manual handling tools or equipment used in aged care.

Safe manual handling techniques

Manual Handling Equipment In Aged Care

Aged care workers need to acquire the skills and training necessary to operate manual handling equipment effectively.

When it comes to elderly care, having reliable manual handling equipment is necessary for the safety of clients and caregivers and increases the quality of care that clients receive.

Equipment available to caregivers and those they assist may include:

  • Sliding Sheets
  • Wheelchairs
  • Slings
  • Mobile Hoists
  • Transfer Belts
  • Transfer Boards
  • Stretchers
  • Ceiling Hoists
Manual handling equipment in age care

Information And Assistance From Trained Professionals Concerning Manual Handling

Your business occupational safety and health supervisor can guide you about reducing the hazards connected with manual handling.

Groups like WorkSafe Victoria and labour unions can guide you in adjusting the workplace and daily operations to lessen the likelihood of manual handling-related injuries.

If you have any training-related concerns, contact a certified first-aid provider who can answer your questions and address your issues. They will be your best resource for learning about safe manual handling practices.

The content on this website offers general insights regarding health conditions and potential treatments. It is not intended as, and should not be construed as, medical advice. If you are facing a medical emergency, dial 000 immediately and follow the guidance provided.

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