Being safe and healthy at work is an important goal for everyone to work towards. In New South Wales alone, Worker’s Compensation costs were over $4 billion in the past ten months with manual handling-related injuries making up a significant percentage of these costs. In this blog, we will look at some important considerations for lifting safely at work.
Why should we talk about Manual Handling?
As mentioned, workplace injuries are a prominent occurrence with an average of nearly 8000 new Worker’s Compensation claims per month in NSW. Thirty-six percent of new claims are related to ‘body stressing’, which includes injuries related to repetitive or strenuous work. Additionally, 24% of injuries are related to “lifting, pushing, pulling or bending” as you can see in the graph below.
Over the past decade, employers have tried to curtail the number of avoidable injuries in the workplace but implementing pre-employment screenings and manual handling training. This has seen the trend of workplace injuries decrease, reducing the cost and impact of work-related injuries in NSW. The simplicity of these programs has allowed safer work environments that benefits both the employer and the employee.
What can be done?
There are two areas that can be targeted to decrease the risk factors associated with manual handling-related injuries and limit the impact of injuries that do occur. This includes ensuring that people are physically prepared for the jobs they must do, and maximising safety within these specific roles by focusing on ergonomics.
Physical Preparedness for Work
Any specific job task will have inherent physical requirements which are often unavoidable. Whilst exposure to risky positions can be minimised, they cannot be avoided altogether. If a job task falls within an individual’s physical limits (encompassing strength, endurance, and range of motion), then the risk of injury while completing that task is reduced.
Research has found that exercise programs have the ability to reduce the occurrence and re-occurrence of lower back pain by strengthening and preconditioning the muscles of the back and other parts of the body, demonstrating the protective effect of exercise.
But just how much exercise is required? According to Bigos and colleagues, even as little six minutes of exercise on a workday can yield benefits in terms of preventing lower back pain. This indicates the potential value of a pre-work warm-up routine without a significant time requirement.
The goal of ergonomics is to optimise the relationship between people and the work environment. In order to do this, equipment needs to be designed and purchased with an understanding and awareness of the size and shape of the people that are going to be using it. In the short term, if the equipment is well-designed from an ergonomics perspective, it can reduce the amount of physical effort required to complete a task, thereby reducing fatigue. Fatigue is a big contributor to injury risk, so even a slight reduction in this can be beneficial.
P360 Worker Assessments
At P360 we complete pre-employment assessments specific to various job roles. This allows us to ensure that people are physically prepared for the work they intend to do. Pre-employment assessments involve looking at an individual’s maximum capacity, and what percentage of that capacity is required to complete the intended job task.
Utilising our state-of-the-art technology at P360, a pre-employment or current employee assessment would involve:
- Range of motion assessment (particularly lumbar range measured via Dorsa Vi wearable sensors),
- Maximum strength assessment for appropriate muscle groups with the Vald Force Frame
- Kinetisense Advanced Movement Screen (KAMS) assessment,
- On-site task analysis utilising Joint Action Solutions (JAS) and monitoring with Dorsa Vi.
With the data collected from these assessments, we can provide specific recommendations about what tasks are safest for the employee to complete. By assessing the employee’s “norm” and seeing how much of their maximum capacity is required to complete a task, a risk score can be calculated.
Treatment is indicated when an employee uses close to or exceeds their maximum capacity for a given task, or when they have a higher risk score. The goal of treatment in these instances is to improve an employee’s physical preparedness for the job, whether in the domains of strength, range of motion or endurance. This is achieved through a customised exercise treatment program that will significantly increase the employee’s physical capacity and preparedness for work.
Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2018-19. (2021). Retrieved 23 June 2021, from https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/australian-workers-compensation-statistics-2018-19
Bigos, S., Holland, J., Holland, C., Webster, J., Battie, M., & Malmgren, J. (2009). High-quality controlled trials on preventing episodes of back problems: systematic literature review in working-age adults. The Spine Journal, 9(2), 147-168. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2008.11.001
Open data analytics tool – SIRA. (2021). Retrieved 23 June 2021, from https://www.sira.nsw.gov.au/open-data/system-overview
Sowah, D., Boyko, R., Antle, D., Miller, L., Zakhary, M., & Straube, S. (2018). Occupational interventions for the prevention of back pain: Overview of systematic reviews. Journal Of Safety Research, 66, 39-59. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2018.05.007