Loading and unloading heavy shipments and oversized items off vans and lorries can be risky, but you can avoid danger and still get the job done. Here, Dan Casey from hydraulic lifting equipment specialist Penny Hydraulics explains how you can keep your vehicle operators safe when their job role includes manual handling.
It’s no secret that manual handling can be a dangerous part of any job, with employees expected to transfer heavy loads on and off vehicles and around warehouses. In fact, statistics from the HSE showed that the second most common cause of non-fatal injuries in the workplace (21%) came from handling, lifting or carrying.
While it’s impossible to remove the process of transporting goods completely, you can reduce and control the amount of manual handling your drivers are required to do to keep them safe and healthy. In this article, I will tell you how.
Provide adequate training
When there’s no way around manual handling, for example in small spaces where lifting aids wouldn’t fit, you will need to ensure that your workers are adhering to the rules and regulations given by the government. According to the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, employers have a duty of care towards their employees, to take all reasonably practicable measures to avoid them having to manually handle loads.
However, the legislation does take into account the circumstances where this may not be avoidable, and therefore employers will need to conduct a risk assessment and put measures in place to ensure these don’t turn into hazards. It’s also great practice to get your employees involved and engaged with the risk assessment, and give them the opportunity to have an input about any risks they may have noticed that you haven’t.
Once you’ve created your risk assessment, you will also need to offer adequate training on how to lift loads, especially when there are specific requirements. This could be something like considering a differently handling technique if the centre of gravity isn’t positioned centrally for the goods they’re lifting.
There are plenty of professionals who can come in to give you a helping hand with this, so that you can pass the relevant and important to your staff. There are also courses you can take, as well as VR technology which can create realistic simulations of these hazards, so your employees are equipped to deal with any obvious risks.
Have lifting weight restrictions in place
It’s unrealistic — and dangerous — for just one person to be responsible for lifting heavy shipments on and off vans and lorries, but even when a couple of extra people lend a helping hand, it can still be hazardous if the weight puts a strain on any of your employees. In fact, a report from UNISON stated that each year 30,000 people experience back pain due to manual handling. Fast forward and repetitive strain could cause debilitating conditions for your workers, including spinal injuries and permanent injuries which may leave them unable to work.
To get around this, it’s important that you put lifting weight restrictions in place and give guidance on how many people are needed for each weighted load.
Everybody’s lifting capacity will be different, and although there are no maximum lifting limits imposed by the government or HSE, there are some recommendations. These can change depending on how the load is being lifted, how close the body it’s being held and how high or low your employees are required to hold it.
In general, men are advised to lift a maximum of 25kg alone when the load is being carried around the waist, but this reduces to 5kg for goods and equipment that’s being held overhead or at arm’s length. For women, the maximum weight is 16kg for loads being carried at waist height (HSE NI). From these guidelines, you can work out how many people should be carrying each load to ensure sufficient support is being offered.
Invest in lifting equipment
When all reasonably practicable measures have been put in place, yet you feel like your workforce is still being affected by the amount of manual handling, it might be worth investing in some lifting equipment. These lifting solutions will not only take the load off your workers’ hands and make the job possible for a single operator, but they’ll also be ideal for speeding up the efficiency of your operations, benefitting your company’s overall productivity.
Whether you think it’ll be suitable to get a lightweight lift which can leave your vehicle with a lot of loading capacity or need a crane that can handle much heavier loads, it’ll pay to invest in this type of equipment for the advantages it can bring to your company.
For vans with double doors at the rear, rear mounted lifts will ensure that your staff can safely stow lift goods into the vehicle without the need for any manual handling. Similarly, those that would need to be able to quickly collect kerbside deliveries would benefit from side mounted lifts. These are usually compact and can be taken along with your drivers hassle-free, while having little impact on the capacity of your van.
Manual handling should always be kept to a minimum, and you can do so by following the top tips I shared here. Whether you choose to implement more training, or to invest in lifting solutions, you’re sure to see a more efficient and satisfied workforce.