What can employers do about musculoskeletal disorders?

Musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs) are injuries to the joints or other tissues of the back, shoulders, and wrists, although they can also affect the lower body.

Back pain, damaged spinal discs, sprains and strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tennis elbow are all conditions that might occur.

MSDs cause suffering for many people, despite the fact that they are not deadly. MSDs account for over half of all working days lost in UK manufacturing. The cost to the economy is estimated to be around £2 billion each year, according to the HSE.

One thing is clear: offering manual handling training as the sole form of control is not acceptable to the HSE. People will utilize the incorrect lifting technique if the workplace is poorly designed, if the proper equipment is not given, or if they are under time constraints.

If you work in the food industry, you should examine your risk assessments and make sure they are current (and dated!) in advance of an HSE visit. Are you satisfied with the answers you can provide to the questions the HSE may ask?

1. Have you completed a risk assessment for all relevant tasks?

The HSE will concentrate on tasks that are known to produce MSDs. Inspectors will pay close attention to:

  • Container stacking and unloading (such as boxes, crates, and sacks)
  • Wheeled racks that move (oven racks, roll cages, and trolleys)
  • Product packaging
  • Meat and poultry cutting, boning, jointing, trussing, and evisceration

2. Have you identified all of the major risks?

By employing the same methods that the HSE uses to identify hazardous handling, you can get ahead of them. Depending on the task, the HSE uses one of four tools available on the HSE website:

  • Use the “Risk Assessment for Pushing and Pulling” (RAPP) if a task requires pushing and pulling (e.g., wheeled racks) 
  • Use the “Manual Handling Assessment Charts” (MAC) while lifting and carrying loads of similar weight
  • Use the “Varied Manual Handling Assessment Charts” (VMAC) for lifting and carrying loads with a wide range of weights
  • Use the “Assessment of Repetitive Tasks” (ART) if the work requires repetitive movements (such as packing things) 

Using the appropriate instrument will demonstrate to the HSE that you are aware of the nature of the task at hand. These evaluations will guide you in the direction of adjustments you can implement to reduce risk at the source.

3. Have you put in place the necessary safeguards?

Your risk assessments must prove that you have eliminated or minimized any remaining handling risks through task design, workplace architecture, and equipment when possible.

Consider a task in which a large load is lifted off the ground, transported a considerable distance, up some steps, and then placed on a high shelf in a cramped storage room where the handler must twist and reach simultaneously. Think about the following enhancements:

Can you replace the main part of the task with a conveyor belt? This could potentially increase production and hence pay for itself.

Redesign the work environment – what is the reason for the load on the floor? Is it possible to put it immediately on a trolley? Is it possible to provide a scissor lift to transport the trolley up the stairs? A ramp could work, but consider how steep it would be. RAPP can help you avoid substituting a lifting hazard with a pushing hazard. Is it possible to reorganize the storage space such that the handler does not have to twist and reach at the same time?

4. Do your controls get monitored?

If you provide trolleys or other equipment to minimize the stress of carrying, or pulleys and levers to handle large goods, you must be able to provide records demonstrating that proper inspection and maintenance of that equipment has occurred.

Is that the end of it?

Despite the fact that the HSE’s food manufacturing sector program focuses on occupational lung disease and MSD, don’t expect them to ignore additional risks.

They have a “background” list of important concerns that they keep an eye on in all places of business. Fire and explosion, legionella, pressure vessels, structural difficulties, construction, and confined spaces are all examples of these.

HSE inspections can be made easier with the use of health and safety management software. The OSHA compliance checklist in CloudApper Safety can assist you in protecting personnel and preparing for inspections. Request a demo today if you’re interested in learning more.

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