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Manual handling: are your staff at risk?

06 June 2016

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

Indeed, the industry has received a Category B risk rating from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – the second highest rating of its kind. As a result, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) pinpointed manual handling in the food and drink industry as a specific area for improvement over the next five years.

The latest statistics for the UK show that 30% of all injuries within this industry sector are sustained through manual handling. The potential compensation claims, legal fees, replacement staff and overtime costs all add up and can have a tremendous financial impact on a business’ bottom line.

Relevant training, designed to reduce the risk of injury, is the best way to protect the business and its workers. Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, places a legally obligation on companies to provide training.

However for training to be effective, it must be relevant. Andy Cartwright of Mentor 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’ll soon understand how vastly different their challenges are.”

Mentor can offer a suite of manual handling training packages designed to meet the needs of all food producers. The company also IOSH-accredited manual handling courses for those that require certification from the Chartered body for health and safety professionals.

“Its not enough to familiarise delegates with examples of good and bad practice and demonstrate how to safely handle loads – they also need to understand why good practice is in everyone’s interests,” continues Cartwright.

“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, your workforce must recognise the very real possibility that cutting corners, complacency and ignorance could lead to a potentially life-changing injury.”

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