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Get a handle on handling injuries

22 October 2019

In this issue, James Marston, learning and development manager at the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), looks at the perils of lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling

Sadly, once again injuries through handling equipment are in the top five causes of injuries in the workplace reported by the HSE Summary Statistics for 2018, and the reason for more than a third of all work-related injuries reported.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) cover any injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.

For cleaning operatives, this is a constant threat to pain-free working practice. The smallest strain can lead to painful long-term symptoms if it is ignored or working hours hinders or delays a full recovery. 

In 2017/18 469,000 workers reported MSD injuries leading to 6.6 million workdays lost *. Given these figures, how many staff suffer at work due to strains, do not report it and just keep going until they have to stop. Lost wages, quality of life, possibly leading to chronic pain, can result. 

What can be done to reduce injury and alleviate the effects on people and business? The HSE report goes on to say that working patterns that involve the body movements below are more likely to cause injury:

  • Fixed or constrained body positions 
  • Continual repetition of movements 
  • Force concentrated on small parts of the body such as the hand or wrist 
  • A pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements 

Apart from complying with current regulations for manual handling, employers and workers can introduce more subtle ways to reduce the risk of injury. Adjustable equipment to reflect the operator’s stature, such as adjustable mop handles can make life much more comfortable. Use of pickers rather than a dustpan and brush means less bending to the floor. Encouraging cleaning operators to swap hands and lead with their other hand can reduce repetitive movements. Above all, training in good technique for cleaning tasks will reduce personal injury risk considerably and improve competence.

Business owners and directors can look closely at job roles. Training more skills to vary job-related tasks has enormous benefits. Variable manual tasks allow the body to stretch and move in a different way alleviating any symptoms.

In 2019 we can expect similar figures for injuries to workers. A proactive manual handling policy and resulting actions ensure workers are aware of the risks, change practice, do not ignore the symptoms and seek help sooner. Doing so means your workers do not add to those statistics.

 * Work related musculoskeletal disorders in Great Britain (WRMSDs), 2018