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Manual handling: are your staff at risk?

07 May 2016

The food and drinks industry demands the extensive physical activity of the majority of its workforce. From processing to picking lines, preparation to point of sale, workers are tasked with repetitive movements, bending, lifting and carrying – all of which hold the risk of acute injury if not properly carried out. 

The industry has a Category B risk rating from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – the second highest rating of its kind and it has pinpointed manual handling in the food and drink industry as a specific area for improvement over the next five years. Relevant training, designed to reduce the risk of injury, is the best way to protect workers – and the business. Indeed, training is a requirement.

Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, there is a legal obligation to provide training. In order for training to be effective, it needs to be relevant.

Andy Cartwright of Mentor FLT Training, explains: “A generic, one-course-fits-all approach is an inappropriate and ineffective use of time and available budget. To be effective, training needs to reflect the level of experience of the delegates, the duties required of them and the level of risk they face. “Many manual handling programmes use the same generic examples and loads – lifting a cardboard box, for instance – regardless of the day-to-day activities of the delegates. But spend two minutes observing order pickers in a refrigerated warehouse and you will soon understand how different their challenges are. We utilise the customers’ own loads within their working environments to ensure that training is relevant and can be quickly applied.”

It is important for those being trained to understand why good practice is in everyone’s interests. “To ensure a lasting impact, we target their behaviour and the attitudes at the root of any bad practice. In order to effect and maintain a positive change in the long term, the workforce must recognise the very real possibility that cutting corners, complacency and ignorance could lead to a potentially life-changing injury,” concludes Cartwright.

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