back injury at work

Explaining The Main Dangers Of Improper Manual Handling

Posted on 12th Apr, 2018 | By Lorretta Tatham

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are far more common than many people give them credit for, accounting for more than a third of all work-related illnesses reported each year to major authorities like the Health and Safety Executive. Manual handling injuries come under the majority of these MSDs, and can be caused by lots of factors; including the weight of the load, the time or distance it’s carried, and whether there is any awkward twisting or abnormal postures involved, even momentarily. Here are some of the main consequences that often arise.

Common Types Of Musculoskeletal Disorders

employee with back pain

We won’t go into them exhaustively, but foremost amongst the most common types of MSDs include acute strains or sprains, which are most often caused by overlifting or stressing weak back muscles. Factors that can exacerbate the likelihood of developing strains and sprains include being overweight, having weak back or abdominal muscles, or excessively curving the lower back (for example when bending over too far to pick up or put down a heavy object).

If you’re worried about developing such a condition, when carrying out manual handling work you should be aware of any pain worsening with movement, muscle cramping, or decreased flexibility. To be honest, it’s very unlikely the average worker would ignore such symptoms anyway, but they’re all still worth saying!

Amongst the other common types of MSDs include lumbar vertebral disk herniations – such injuries are sometimes more frequently known as a slipped disc. Essentially, vertebral discs are made up of soft, jelly-like substances which sit between each spinal bone. Their job is to absorb compression and movement forces, which means that improper lifting techniques can put them under excessive pressure. When this happens, they can slip out of place or rupture, which then puts pressure on the spinal cord. Sometimes, a slipped disc can end up pressing against a nerve, often causing severe pain.

slipped disc diagram

How To Avoid Musculoskeletal Disorders

We’ve talked in detail about the best injury prevention techniques in a recent blog, but we’ll sum them up here too for the sake of clarity. One very important step before undertaking any kind of lifting or manual handling is to remember to stretch. Shortened muscles can be pulled or strained easily, or lead to the herniations we’ve just discussed above. Stretching them will temporarily lengthen them, helping workers to reduce the likelihood of developing a manual handling injury.

Our other top tips for avoiding manual handling injuries include:

  • Plan ahead and clear your route as best you can
  • When lifting, keep your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your back straight
  • Bend your knees and lift with your legs, keeping the load close to your body
  • Don’t forget to ask for help – two people are always better than one!

lifting posture

Here at Browns Safety, we’re passionate about helping you avoid any kind of injury at work, which is why we run a number of health and safety training courses designed to equip you with the knowledge and expertise to do exactly that. Amongst these is our Manual Handling Training Course, which deals with many of the issues covered in this post. You can click on the link to book your place, or simply give us a ring on 01282 615 517 to make an enquiry over the phone. We’re here to help!

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