Is Manual Handling Training Worthless?

16 April 2018
Is Manual Handling Training Worthless

We all remember the obligatory manual handling training on the first day of the job.

Keeping a straight back, bending your knees, lifting a cardboard box. It's the tried and tested method used by almost every organisation.

But does it work?

A Complete Waste of Time

New musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) web-based advice by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests not.

"Our research shows that simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money, it just doesn't make any difference.

The overall aim is to avoid and reduce manual handling, and that's where employers should start if their workforce faces manual handling risks. Don't start with training, start with re-organising and redesigning your working practices.

If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customised and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices, and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce."

- Geoff Cox, HSE's Health and Work Portfolio Manager

The advice comes after input from numerous businesses, trade bodies and unions, training providers, professional bodies and safety professionals and consultants. Organisations involved in developing the web advice include ROSPA, IOSH, BSiF, EEF and Unite the Union, among others.

Manual Handling Training

A Different Approach To Managing MSD Risks

The new HSE advice has categories that describe the different kinds of help organisations might need. These are:

  • MSD Risk Assessment
  • Workplace Organisation and Design Changes
  • Comprehensive Approach to Managing MSD Risks
  • Changing Attitudes, Behaviours and Providing Tailored Training

Each category gives an example of implementation. By comparing your circumstances to these, you should be able to get the most suitable type of help for your organisation.

"The web-based advice should make employers think about what sort of help they need.

Where a training need is identified, it’s now broadly accepted that conventional approaches aren’t particularly effective. Instead, the training must be practically-orientated, relevant and engaging for the individual, making it more likely that it’s adopted at the “coal face”, and critically, be part of a far more comprehensive system for changing manual handling behaviour in the long-term."

- Phil Bladon, Commercial Director at Pristine Condition

So it looks like bog standard manual handling training doesn't work. Tailoring training to specifically suit the requirements of your workers will prove far more effective and help reduce the amount of manual handling injuries on site.

And considering 8.9 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2016/17 (HSE) - we'd say bespoke training is worth the time and effort!

Getting Everyone Involved

Another key point highlighted in the web-based advice is the importance of involving workers in manual handling solutions, as those who carry out the work often come up with the best answers and ideas.

Toolbox Talks are a great way to encourage such discussions. We offer them completely free of charge to all customers to ensure your staff never work unprepared again.