Safety alert: HSE launches manual handling crackdown in construction

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors will be carrying out enforcement visits on construction sites across England, Scotland and Wales in September and October to check that workers’ health is being protected from the risks associated with moving and handling materials. They will look for evidence of employers and workers:

  1. Knowing the risks
  2. Planning their work
  3. Using sensible control measures

As an employer, you need to provide your employees with Health & Safety information and training, including specific information and training on manual handling injury risks and how to prevent them so they can work safely.

If not, you could face enforcement action from the HSE.

What are the risks?

Construction workers have a high risk of developing aches, pains and discomfort in muscles and joints, referred to as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Working days lost through MSDs have big financial implications for businesses – they caused 7.3 million lost working days in 2021/22 – as well as time spent to recruit and train replacement workers if needed.

These injuries can often be reoccurring, so it’s important to get the control measures right to protect workers’ long-term health, wellbeing, and ability to remain in work.

The law: what you need to know

Avoid, assess, reduce

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 set out a clear hierarchy of measures for dealing with manual handling risks. These are:

  1. Avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far as reasonably practicable.
  2. Assess any manual handling operations that can’t be avoided.
  3. Reduce the risk of injury to as low as reasonably practicable.

Here are a few good places to start:

  • Make sure you’ve completed and communicated your risk assessment containing manual handling hazards and control measures.
  • Prevent unnecessary lifting and carrying. Take steps like using forklift trucks or driving loads closer to the point they’ll be needed.
  • Avoid heavy materials that could cause problems if they need to be moved by hand. Choose lighter materials, order smaller bags of cement and aggregates. Keep materials such as concrete blocks dry to help with grip.
  • Make sure workers are trained to use lifting equipment and other aids safely.
  • Think about workers’ size and strength. Have they been trained to lift safely?

When risk assessing manual handling, you must:

  1. Consider the four risk factors: Task, Individual, Load and Environment (TILE).
  2. Identify people at risk.
  3. Identify what’s provided to control the risk.
  4. Identify further action and who needs to carry it out.
  5. Document the assessment.

Depending on the complexity of the assessment you might need to refer to the MAC tool (for lifting, carrying and team handling), RAPP tool (for pushing and pulling), V-MAC tool (for more complex manual handling where load weights may vary), and ART tool for repetitive work using upper limbs.

You’ll need to support workers with MSDs in your workforce and do an individual manual handling assessment. Consider each person on a case-by-case basis. You might need to change a worker’s duties if a task is causing an MSD or making it worse. They may need to stop doing some tasks temporarily to help them recover, or sometimes they won’t be able to return to a particular task.

For more information on the HSE’s campaign, please click here. And please check out our resources in Atlas to make sure you’re working safely, including:

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