“Our research shows that simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money,” said HSE’s health and work portfolio manager Geoff Cox. “It just doesn’t make any difference.”
Instead, companies should focus first on their processes, to reduce manual handling and its inherent risks. And then should they commission training that is customised to address their specifically identified needs.
HSE has produced new advice on musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) to help employers decide what type of help they need to tackle the risks in their workplace. The web-based advice illustrates different approaches with examples and identifies who may be able to help address their needs.
Mr Cox said: “The overall aim is to avoid and reduce manual handling, and that’s where employers should start if their workforce faces manual handling risks. Don’t start with training, start with re-organising and redesigning your working practices. If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customised and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices, and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce.”
The new HSE guidance, freely available online, was developed with a range of organisations, including trades unions, the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
EEF head of health & safety policy Terry Woolmer said that it “won’t tell you how to resolve your MSD issues but it will help you decide what types of approaches suit your business and where to get the help you need”.
Roy McKee, health and safety consultant at RoSPA, said: “The web-based advice recognises training has a place in the hierarchy of controls for manual handling and also its limitations. It allows the risk profile of the company to dictate the level of competence and extent of help necessary rather than a person’s accreditation or qualifications.”