In workplaces across Australia every year muscle strains and sprains occur from manual handling tasks. Part of any church’s risk management system should include identifying work practices such as manual handling that have the potential to cause injuries to staff and / or volunteers.
What is manual handling?
Manual handling refers to activities involving physical effort. Not all manual handling tasks are risky; however higher-risk activities may include:
- Lifting, handling and carrying objects or people.
- Repetitive movements.
- The use of force to move an object (pulling / pushing).
- Sustained vibration.
- Impact from sudden force.
- Prolonged sitting in cramped or uncomfortable positions.
- Steering heavy trolleys or wheelchairs.
- Twisting or bending repeatedly.
- Continual stooping or bending.
- Over-reaching – e.g. to high shelving.
- The use of high force to grip and move items.
How can this be managed?
The aim of risk management in these matters is to reduce the likelihood of personal harm or injury. Actions for this may include:
- Provision of adjustable equipment for lifting objects or people.
- Moving loads in smaller, more manageable lots.
- Providing training on correct lifting and carrying techniques.
- Implementing team-lifting of heavy items or people (e.g. disabled persons).
- Adding handles to items that require strong gripping force to be moved.
- Ensuring regular breaks are taken by staff especially those involved in repetitive movements or tasks likely to cause strain.
- Workspace design improvements – such as better workstation design and / or provision of adjustable benches and shelving.
- Storage improvements to prevent excessive bending or reaching.
- Elimination of the need for the manual handling task altogether.
In a church environment, even activities such as stacking chairs could create the potential for muscular strain and fatigue. It’s important that such tasks are shared and not left to be managed by one person alone. Working in pairs or teams can help share the load and may greatly reduce the risk for personal injury.
Written by Tess Oliver
Tags: employees, health & safety, volunteers