HSE inspections target moving and handling

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched an inspection campaign focused on the health risks of moving and handling materials on construction sites.

The HSE is visiting construction sites to ensure that moving and handling tasks are being carried out safelyBritain’s health and safety watchdog wants to highlight the long-term health impacts of poor or unsafe moving and handling practices, with figures showing that around 42,000 construction workers suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) because of them.

MSDs can cause “a lifetime of suffering,” leaving workers unable to walk, stand or sit down and severely impacting their quality of life and ability to work.

Raising awareness of moving and handling risks

Poor moving and handling can lead to MSDs, which affect around 42,000 workers in the construction industryHSE inspectors will visit construction sites to check on moving and handling processes throughout September and October 2023 as part of their ‘Work Right Construction. Your health. Your future,’ campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the risks involved when moving and handling materials on a construction site and will provide advice and guidance for both employers and workers on the “simple measures” that can help.

It follows inspections in 2022 which discovered pockets of poor practice that resulted in enforcement action.

Examples included a construction worker lifting an 80kg kerb on his own without any assistance from machinery, lifting aids or his colleagues, and a 110kg floor saw that had to be moved into and out of a work van by two operatives.

Inspectors, did, however, also find widespread examples of effective solutions to protect workers, such as the use of mechanical equipment to handle large glazing panes, using small inexpensive air bags to help to position heavy doors when being installed, and the use of all-terrain pallet trucks to move blocks and brick-lifters to carry bricks around site.

Safe moving and handling is everyone’s responsibility

Everyone involved in a construction project should consider the risks from moving and handling tasksAll employers are required by law to assess and effectively control health and safety risks to their workers. This includes the risk of MSDs, which cause pain in muscles, bones, joints and nerves and account for over half (53%) of all work-related ill-health in the construction industry.

When moving and handling is managed properly, even a physically demanding job like construction should not negatively impact a workers’ everyday life.

Moving and handling risks should be recognised by everyone in the industry and assessed before work commences at a site, and, if possible, manual handling activities should be prevented at the design stage. For those that cannot be prevented, appropriate risk control measures should be put in place.

Positive risk control measures include training and suitable manual handling aids and equipment.

Aches and pains shouldn’t be part of the job

The HSE’s Principal Ergonomist, Matt Birtles, said that the health risks from moving and handling should not be “downplayed.” He added:

“Serious aches, pains and strains should not be accepted as routine when working in construction. These can dramatically affect every part of someone’s life – with sufferers struggling to get themselves dressed and undressed, and unable to pick up their children or grandchildren.

“The culture of a site may mean many people feel uncomfortable talking about these issues but if your back has gone or if you’re in agony whenever you move your arms, measures need to be put in place to address the causes.”

Meanwhile, the Acting Head of the Construction Division at the HSE, Mike Thomas, said:

“MSDs affect the lives of tens of thousands of construction workers and can lead to a lifetime of suffering. However, there are simple measures that can be taken to prevent this.

“Everyone involved in construction has a role to play in keeping people safe and healthy. We want everyone in the industry, from designers to contractors and their workers, to be aware of the risks associated with any moving or lifting task and put appropriate measures in place.

“The health of workers must be considered when planning construction work so that they can carry out their jobs without fear of injuring themselves or developing aches, pains and strains, including being provided with the correct equipment to lift and move materials safely.”

The HSE provides guidance for manual handling at work on their website.

Moving and handling training for workers

First Response Training (FRT) is one of the UK’s largest and leading national training providers.

They deliver a wide and diverse range of training for businesses and organisations across all industry sectors and throughout the UK. Their course range includes training in the fields of health and safetyfirst aidfire safety, mental healthfood safetyhealth and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines. The portfolio includes courses such as Manual Handling, Health and Safety, Managing Health and Safety, Risk Assessment, Accident and Incident Investigation, and many more.

Based on a common sense, proportionate approach to workplace safety, training helps learners to understand the true benefits of creating a healthy and safe environment at work.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“The construction industry continues to remain one of the most dangerous sectors to work within in the UK, with consistently high rates of work-related ill-health, injuries and fatalities reported each year.

“MSDs are a huge problem for the construction sector so it’s vital that everyone within the industry takes manual handling tasks extremely seriously and that they ensure they plan and assess all tasks and implement suitable control measures to mitigate and reduce risks as far as is reasonably practicable.

“Manual handling training for all employees is also a must-have in the construction industry; workers should be given the right knowledge and skills to enable them to carry out moving and handling tasks as safely as possible, and protect themselves from harm.”

For more information on any of the training courses that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or e-mail info@firstresponsetraining.com.