There are many hazards that you might come across while doing manual work. This article looks at the most common hazards, how you can reduce your risk of injury at work and what your employer's responsibilities are.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are the most common kind of work-related illnesses in the UK, and include problems like lower back pain, joint injuries and repetitive strain injuries. Most MSDs can be avoided if you know what causes them and how to protect yourself.
MSDs can be caused by:
Most importantly, you need to make sure you're properly trained in how to:
There are other potential problems at work, including
Slips and trips cause more than 30 per cent of all major injuries reported each year. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (or Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993) require floors to be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions. People must be able to move around safely. See the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website or the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) website for more information.
Falls from height are a hazard in all industrial sectors. Any work done at height is regulated by the Work at Height Regulations 2005. See the HSE or HSENI websites for more information.
Vibration can cause long-term health effects if it isn't dealt with properly. There are regulations, the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005, which cover exposure to vibration at work. See the HSE or HSENI websites for more information.
Noise at work can cause permanent damage to hearing. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (or Control of Noise at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006), otherwise known as the Noise Regulations, require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. See the HSE or HSENI websites for more information.
Your employer has a legal duty to assess all of these hazards in a risk assessment. As well as telling you about them, they must supply information, training and suitable protective measures to reduce the risks linked to the hazards.
Lifting and carrying can cause back pain. Before you lift or carry a load, you should first consider whether the load needs to be moved at all - maybe you can carry out your task with the load where it is.
If you must move it, think about whether you can use a machine to help you. If not, there are a number of ways to reduce risks, including:
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations say your employer must
If you suffer from back pain, you should stay active and try simple pain relief tablets. If the pain doesn't go away or gets worse, you should talk to your GP.
The HSE and HSENI is running a 'Better Backs' campaign on back pain.
If your back pain is caused by or made worse by your job, you should first speak to your employer. If you have an employee representative (e.g. a trade union official) or a safety representative, they may be able to help you.
If you're disabled, you may need extra help to do manual work. Your employer can speak to an 'Access To Work Adviser' via the local Jobcentre, who may be able to help pay for any changes needed (e.g. providing lifting equipment).
To reduce risks when you're carrying out manual work:
TheInfoline offers confidential advice and guidance for England, Wales and Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, HSENI