Recent research undertaken by the HSE and the Health and Safety Laboratory (an independent agency of the HSE offering health and safety research) conclusively proves the efficacy of the HSE’s Manual Handling Assessment Tool (MAC tool). The MAC tool helps employers and managers assess the risks posed by lifting, carrying and team manual handling activities. It helps users understand, interpret and categorise the level of risk of the various known risk factors associated with manual handling activities.
The HSE study aimed to ascertain whether the MAC tool could predict how much time workers would lose from work due to lower back pain caused by improper manual handling techniques—and the report succeeded by providing a ratio for how much time employees would miss from work due to lower back pain.
The report suggests that, as ‘hand distance from the lower back’ increased during any act of manual handling (such as lifting and carrying), the risk of lost time due to lower back pain increased. For each 10 centimetre increase between the hand and lower back during manual handling, the rate of lost time due to lower back pain increased by approximately 20 per cent. In other words, the farther away your employees’ hands are from their lower back when picking up or carrying something, the more they risk losing time from work due to lower back pain directly attributable to incorrect manual handling.
The results are clear—there is a quantifiable link between poor manual handling and time spent away from work due to lower back pain.
To help lower your business’ cost of working days lost to poor manual handling and lower back pain, communicate the study’s ratio to your employees and utilise the HSE’s MAC tool. The MAC tool can benefit businesses across all industries, since most business operations require its employees to undertake some manual handling tasks.
The MAC tool classifies manual handling tasks in the following four groups according to risk:
1. Green (G) signifies a low level of risk that could be hazardous to vulnerable groups such as younger workers.
2. Amber (A) signifies a medium level of risk that requires you to examine tasks closely.
3. Red (R) signifies a high level of risk that requires prompt action.
4. Purple (P) signifies a very high level of risk that represents a serious risk of injury.
Begin your assessment by observing or videotaping the task and make sure what you are viewing is representative of normal working procedures—soliciting feedback from employees will help. Then select the appropriate type of assessment (lifting, carrying or team handling) in the MAC tool and follow the associated flow chart to determine the level of risk for each risk factor. For detailed step-by-step instructions, click here: www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg383.pdf.
By relying on the MAC tool, your business can accurately assess your employees’ manual handling risk, provide employees with quantifiable proof of the need to properly conduct manual handling tasks, and slash costs due to lower back pain and injury.