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27th February, 2020

Manual Handling? Think LITE!

Manual handling is present in nearly every workplace in one form or another. You could be carrying some paperwork, lifting a box or pushing a trolley. It's all manual handling. And when you are doing it, you need to think LITE.

Manual handling is the leading cause of musculoskeletal disorders at work. And if you want to avoid being one of the 498,000 workers suffering from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder, it’s important to know how much you can safely lift, and use good handling techniques.

It's not just strains you need to watch out for. Here are 7 Types Of Manual Handling Injuries And The Hazards That Cause Them.

But when many people think about manual handling, they often just think about the maximum weight they can lift. But there is so much more to consider before you lift, carry, push or pull something.

One of the important requirements under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations is to assess the risk. And yes, weight is one of the things you should assess. But in this blog post, we're going to look at 25+ other considerations that should also be included in your assessment.

When manual handling, and assessing the risk, always think LITE.

LITE = Load, Individual, Task, Environment.

These four elements will help you to assess various considerations about the activity and the risks involved.

Load Considerations:

The load is more than just its weight. A saw might be light but if you hold it by its blade you're likely to hurt yourself. A pile of boxes could be light but if the top ones fall you could trip and lose your balance.

When you think about the load, consider all the things about the load that could make handling it a challenge. Then, address those issues and how they can be made safer. If the loads too big and bulky, maybe it can be broken down into smaller containers. If the loads unstable, could it be secured? Can sharp edges be wrapped? Could gloves protect you? Maybe you shouldn't be handling it at all!

  • Heavy loads
  • Bulky loads
  • Unstable loads
  • Difficult to grasp
  • Sharp edges
  • Hot or hazardous loads

Individual Considerations:

Everyone is different. Don't just think about the load, but also the person handling it. Do they have the right training? Do they have the strength and physical capabilities to move it? Do they have any medical issues that may prevent them from safely handling? Can they get help if they need it? Is there anything you could provide that would assist them?

  • Strength of individual
  • Knowledge of the load and task
  • Training and experience
carrying a box
Do they have the strength and physical capabilities?

Task Considerations:

What about the task itself? When you assess a manual handling activity, you might think about lifting a box up from the floor, carrying it a few steps, and putting it down on the floor. That's what we all seem to imagine when we think about manual handling. But rarely is that what a manual handling task looks like in the real world. Manual handling involves lifting, carrying pushing and pulling all sorts of things, in all sorts of places.

Picking up the load might be fine, but how far do you need to carry it? Lifting the load once might be easy, but what about 50 times? Does the task require you to hold the load away from your body, or stoop. Are you going to need to put the load in an awkward position? Is there somewhere safe to put it down? If you get tired, can you stop?

  • Avoid twisting the trunk
  • Avoid stooping or reaching upwards
  • Prevent holding or manipulating loads at a distance from the trunk
  • Avoid tasks that demand poor posture
  • Assess any frequent physical effort
  • Avoid excessive lifting or lowering
  • Prevent excessive carrying distances
  • Prevent excessive pushing or pulling of loads
  • Avoid sudden movement of loads
  • Minimise prolonged physical effort
  • Allow for rest or recovery periods
back injury
Once might be easy, but what about 50 times?

Environment Considerations:

And finally, where is the manual handling taking place. An empty room with no obstacles? Or a busy workplace, with other people, and other activities all taking place around you? Probably the latter.

So don't just consider the activity itself, but where the manual handling task will be happening. How will that affect the health and safety of operation? Is the environment safe? Will there be enough room to move safely? Are there likely to be any slip or trip hazards? Are any obstacles going to block the way?

  • Space restrictions preventing good lifting postures
  • Uneven, slippery, defective, unstable floors
  • Changes in floor level such as steps or ramps
  • A windy or dusty atmosphere
  • Overcrowding of workspaces
  • Extreme temperature changes
  • Physical obstructions
  • Poor lighting

Now that you're thinking LITE, you should be able to spot some quick and easy ways to reduce manual handling risks in your workplace.

Raise awareness with our free manual handling toolbox talk, and make sure your manual handling activities are assessed with the manual handling risk assessment template.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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