Manual Handling Training

& the Law

Manual Handling Training is covered under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007, Part 2, Chapter 4.  The first thing to consider is just what exactly constitutes manual handling training.  The definition given in the regulations states that manual handling means:

any transporting or supporting of a load by one or more employees and includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving a load, which, by reason of its characteristics or of unfavourable ergonomic conditions, involves risk, particularly of back injury, to employees

Many employers misinterpret manual handling as simply meaning the lifting of goods.  However, we can see from the definition that manual handling goes beyond this narrow interpretation and includes the pushing or pulling of trolleys or any other human direct-effort required to move a load.  It should be noted that even this is description misses a core point of the regulations.  It is not simply the lifting, pushing pulling etc. of a load that constitutes manual handling under the regulations.  The definition provided above clearly states that it is manual handling (for the purposes of the regulations) where by reason of its characteristics or of unfavourable ergonomic conditions, involves risk, particularly of back injury…

A common question we receive from clients and others is where does it stop.  Is lifting a biro manual handling?  What about a ream of paper?  Or a an archive box?  There is no straight forward answer to this.  Instead, the employer must carry out a risk assessment to determine what constitutes manual handling.  This means identifying workplace hazards and assessing the risks involved.  If the employer determines that there is no risk by reason of its characteristics or unfavourable ergonomic conditions, then one can argue that the activity in question does not constitute manual handling under the regulations.

Manual Handling Training

So, what of the activities that actually do constitute manual handling?  What are the duties of the employer in relation to safeguarding the safety of their employees under such circumstances?

Article 69(a) of the regulations states that employers must:

take appropriate organisational measures, or use the appropriate means, in particular mechanical equipment,
to avoid the need for the manual handling of loads by the employer’s employees

This is telling you that, as an employer, you are bound by law to taking action to eliminate the need for employees to engage in manual handling.  Options available to employers may include the use of mechanical lifting devices, forklift trucks, conveyors etc.  If the need for manual handling cannot be avoided, what then?

The next step must be for employers to take measures to reduce the risks.  Article 69(b) requires employers to:

take appropriate organisational measures, use appropriate means or provide the employer’s employees with such means
in order to reduce the risk involved in the manual handling of such loads, having regard to the risk factors specified in Schedule 3

This section of the regulations requires employers to reorganise the work or use other means to reduce the risk involved.  Examples may include the redesign or altering the layout of the workplace to reduce the amount of manual handling, providing employees with trolleys or power-assisted trucks or reducing the size, weight or altering other physical aspects of the load in order to make it easier to move around.  This section also allows employers to reduce the risks to their staff by providing them with manual handling training.  By providing your staff with manual handling training, you are providing them with the knowledge and skills to enable them to practice safer lifting, pushing, pulling etc. techniques.  However, employers need to be aware that this is not the full picture.  Providing staff with the skills is a useful, indeed necessary thing.  However, employers should not lose sight of the requirements of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, in particular the duties of the employer under Section 8(2)(a) and 8(2)(b) which require the employer to:

(a) managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable,
the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees
“, and

(b) managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any improper
conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health or welfare at work of his or her employees at risk

These sections are particularly important in the context of manual handling training as they mean that an employer could still face prosecution where an injury occurs despite having provided manual handling training.  Employers are required not just to give employees the tools and resources for working safely, but must make sure that the workplace is actively managed to prevent injury.  Where the employer provides manual handling training, they must make sure that the information passed on during the training is taken into consideration and that the techniques provided are used when a member of staff engages in manual handling.  I often use the analogy of time keeping or theft from the workplace when explaining this to employers who think they have no control over whether or how an employee uses the manual handling training (or any other training for that matter) they have been given.  If an employee repeatedly turned up late for work, or if they were found stealing, would the employer resign themselves to the belief that it was outside their control and that their was nothing more they could do about it?  We all know the answer here.  So why should it be any different where health and safety is concerned?  The answer, at least in the eyes of the law, is that it is not.

Manual Handling Training

– Other Requirements

Article 69(c) is quite detailed, so we will look at each sub-clause individually…

69(c)  (an employer shall) “wherever the need for manual handling of loads by the employer’s employees cannot be
avoided, organise workstations in such a way as to make such handling as safe and healthy as possible

The employer must examine the workstations used by his staff and organise them in such a way as to make manual handling safer.  The employer may wish to consider rearranging spacing arrangements, allowing for height differences between staff or allowing staff to customise certain aspects of the workstation in order to suit their particular needs.

 

69(c)(i) (and,) “taking account of the risk factors for the manual handling of loads specified in Schedule 3,
assess the health and safety conditions of the type of work involved and take appropriate
measures to avoid or reduce the risk particularly of back injury, to the employer’s employees

Schedule 3 is a list of factors which may affect the safety of a load in manual handling.  The schedule means such factors as Characteristics of the loadPhysical effort requiredCharacteristics of the working environment and Individual Risk Factors.  This means the employer is required to take account of the factors mentioned when conducting a risk assessment, particularly with regard to back injury.

 

69(c)(ii) “ensure that particularly sensitive risk groups of employees are protected against any dangers
which specifically affect them in relation to the manual handling of loads and the individual risk factors,
having regard to the risk factors set out in Schedule 3

Employers are required to take account of sensitive risk groups and to ensure they are protected against the dangers associated with manual handling.  Sensitive risk groups are defined under Part 6 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 and include any of the following: Children (under 16 years) and young persons (between 16 and 17), Pregnant, Post Natal and Breastfeeding Employees.  Where an employer has conducted a risk assessment on an employee and that employee changes status e.g. child to young person, a female employee becomes pregnant or has given birth, then the employer is obliged to conduct a fresh assessment on that employee.

 

69(c)(iii) “ensure that where tasks are entrusted to an employee, his or her capabilities in relation to safety and
health are taken into account, including, in relation to the manual handling of loads by employees,
the individual risk factors set out in Schedule 3

As an employer, you are required to take account of the capabilities of your staff in being able to conduct manual handling, not least their age, health, gender, any disabilities they may have or any other factor which may affect their ability to conduct manual handling without adversely affecting their safety or health.

 

69(c)(iv) “when carrying out health surveillance in relation to the manual handling of loads
by employees, take account of the appropriate risk factors set out in Schedule 3

This requirement places a duty on employers to take account of the various risk factors specified in Schedule 3 when conducting health surveillance.

 

69(d) (employers shall) “ensure that those of the employer’s employees who are involved in manual
handling of loads receive general indications and, where possible, precise information on
i – the weight of each load, and
ii – the centre of gravity of the heaviest side when a package is eccentrically loaded”

Employers must provide at least general information or where possible, precise information on the the weights involved and the centre of gravity of the load.

Manual Handling Training

Business Safety provide manual handling training for all sectors and for any number of employees.  Prices start from €250.00 per group (max 12 persons).  Enquire about Manual Handling Training on 0818 333 212 or email: info@BusinessSafety.ie  Alternatively, use the enquiry forms at the top of this page.

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