4 July 2022
Manual handling may be defined as “any activity requiring a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, throw, move, restrain, hold or otherwise handle an object” [WorkSafe].
Workers are at risk from lifting and carrying injuries particularly when:
- a load is too heavy
- it’s difficult to grasp
- it’s too large
- the physical effort is too strenuous
- they are required to bend and twist when handling heavy loads.
The most common cause of workplace injuries is overexertion and bodily reaction. Overexertion often results in musculoskeletal (our bones and muscles) disorders such as sprains and strains, particularly in the lower back.
Any injury that affects the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or nerves resulting in pain is considered a musculoskeletal (MSK) injury.
While pain may be widespread and affect the entire body, it is often localised in the hands, wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders, or lower back due to their high use and exposure.
MSK injuries can affect a person's ability to perform work due to damage caused to:
- tendons – connect muscles to bone or structures.
- ligaments – connect bone to bone.
- muscles, bones & cartilage (skeleton) – provide support, movement & protection.
The most common causes of MSK injuries are lifting, carrying, or putting down objects, falls, and repetitive movement or strain.
So how do we manage the risk of MSKs?
Preventative measures may include:
- Warm-up – loosens the joints, increases blood flow to the muscles and aids flexibility etc.
- Good technique/posture – use the larger muscles and/or mechanical advantage to lift, lower or move objects.
- Hydration – water provides essential electrolytes that are necessary for muscle strength and control.
- Eating – healthy food helps muscles to grow strong, repair themselves and function properly.
- Rest – take regular breaks to allow the body (and mind) time to recover.
- Cool down – similar to the warm-up, but at a slower pace with less intensity allowing muscles to recover.