In the majority of dental workplaces, the usual manual handling that occurs is the transport of boxes containing stock items, or movement of waste containers. If manual handling tasks are performed incorrectly, they lead to a huge amount of distress and pain to individuals and can result in massive disruption to both the workplace and home life, sometimes on a lifelong basis.
While not necessarily responsible for all manual handling injuries, the workplace is likely to be directly affected by them in terms of employee sickness, absence from work, time off for the treatment of injuries, and staff working below their optimal level of competency. Employers may also face possible fines and court cases, with a potential detrimental effect on their reputation.
Manual handling is not simply lifting and carrying pushing, pulling, moving, lowering or restraining objects or persons, using bodily force to pull a lever, are all covered by the term, which can also include simple walking up and down stairs carrying something.
Facts and figures
Each year in the healthcare sector around 2% of workers sustain a work related injury. 78,000 self reported non-fatal workplace injuries were estimated in 2015/2016 of those 25% were attributed to lifting and handling.
Importance of training
Despite these appalling statistics, a third of companies do not provide manual handling training to their employees.
Legislation and duties
A plethora of legislation governs manual handling, chiefly the Manual Handling Regulations 1992, but it is also covered by the HSWA 1974, the Management Regulations 1999, PUWER 1998, RIDDOR 1995, and the Workplace Regulations 1992. The employer should steer clear of the need for manual handling wherever possible to minimise the risk of injury to workers.
If manual handling activities are unavoidable, they should conduct risk assessments to identify potential hazards, looking at the task, who is doing it, how often it is done, the type of load and the environment it is undertaken in.
Employees for their part should help themselves to avoid manual handling injuries by using good lifting techniques, following safe systems of work, using any safety equipment provided, and informing their employer of any identified hazards.
So what should employers be doing to improve the prevention of manual handling injuries? Careful thought should be given before undertaking any manual handling activity, wherever it takes place. Training in correct manual handling procedures is vital, and relevant for both work and home life any training received in the workplace should be applied at home too, where equipment instructions should always be followed, and good practice followed.
E-learning is an excellent, cost-effective way of training large numbers of staff in correct manual handling, and this can be augmented by the use of targeted videos, interactive courses.
The importance of correct manual handling, both at home and at work, cannot be underestimated, and simple steps can be taken to review arrangements to avoid the suffering caused by manual handling injuries. The law is very clear and there is much guidance, help and information available, so there is no excuse for ignoring manual handling issues.
Dental workplaces must provide a safe working environment for their employees to undertake manual handling activities. They should provide suitable training and encourage their employees to openly discuss with management any issues they may have with tasks they have to perform.
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Posted by Gemma