Lifting your game on reducing the risk of manual handling injuries can seem like a heavy burden.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.

Injuries stemming from incorrect manual handling can be an albatross around your neck. An injured worker not only places more pressure on workmates and can lower morale, but may also mean paying overtime or hiring a temp to avoid downtime.

Well-meaning employers can often get side-tracked with day to day responsibilities of running a competitive business, leaving little time to tackle work health and safety issues. Another stumbling block is a belief that effective manual handling training costs an arm and a leg.

But an industry trendsetter, Sean Redmond of Sydney-based TOT Transport, has demonstrated successful training is possible for very little cost. Despite having 130 contractors engaged in high-risk manual handling activity, TOT has a lost-time injury record that competitors envy.

So what is the TOT National Business Improvement and Safety Manager’s secret? Not a magic wand but commitment combined with decent equipment and a camera phone.

The first step, he explained, is to avoid manual handling by using suitable equipment.

The second step is to encourage workers to be healthy and fit.

“A guy who’s healthy and trained and in the field every day is less likely to have an injury,” said Mr Redmond.

The third stage is educating workers about being prepared for manual tasks – the same way an athlete would limber up for a big race.

“You’re going to use every part of your body, you’re going to stretch; make sure your diet is right, hydration is right, and every little aspect of what you’re about to do is right before you do it,” he said.

The fourth step – and this is where you need a camera – is putting workers through their paces in a simulated manual lifting scenario and photographing their movements.

“So, say they have a trolley and are about to lift a fridge; we watch them lift that fridge in practice and take a photograph of every single step, and look for any risk associated with it. Then you look for things they can do differently, or beforehand, to reduce the risk of harm. Sometimes the guys will have to move something heavy into a small area and have to compromise themselves physically, so we will try to help them reduce that compromise,” he said.

“We’ll go, ‘so is that the best way of doing that?’, which no-one has ever asked them before, they’re usually just told, pick up that fridge, take it to this address, smile at the customer and don’t be late. No-one’s said before, ‘now, the way you hold that trolley, is that the right way, and when you lift back, are you jerking or slowly bending knees and moving back?’ – all these little things, that’s how you prevent the injuries.

“Plus you start developing a risk assessment and begin to understand what the main risks actually are, and then put that into practice.”

Get some more helpful tips and advice at workcover.nsw.gov.au or call us on 13 10 50.

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