What Are The 3 Main Consequences Of Incorrect Manual Handling?

Lifting, handling, and carrying are inevitable activities in any workplace, but if these actions are not managed properly, they can cause physical and mental health issues for your workers. Like machines, our bodies react to fatigue and stress, which causes wear and tear, resulting in faults and breakdowns.

It is therefore important to understand the 3 main consequences of poor handling, how to identify them, and how to prevent them. This blog post will explain exactly that, and act as a useful resource for anyone looking to learn more about the challenges of manual handling.

1. Short-Term and/or Superficial Injuries

The first type of potential consequence is defined as short-term and/or superficial injuries. These are categorised as cuts, sprains, strains, tears, and minor fractures. The cause of these injuries is often sudden, while the injuries themselves come from unexpected accidents such as losing your grip or a lapse in concentration. 

Superficial injuries, sprains and strains make up 49% of non-fatal workplace injuries.

2. Long Term/Musculoskeletal Disorders

Long-term injuries involve damage to the musculoskeletal system, including muscles, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, and blood cells. These injuries are caused by gradual wear and tear, such as repetitive strenuous activities or lifting excessively heavy loads.

3. Mental Health Issues

Stress, anxiety, and depression are illnesses that anyone can experience, and all of them may affect your workers. Mental strain can be a side effect of coping with long-term injuries. Physical ailments resulting from work-place injuries are easily recognised but you may not identify a mental health issue that it could have contributed to. Chronic pain and injury can have a serious detrimental effect on mental health because they can cause stress and anxiety for a person trying to manage a short term or long-term disability.

Understanding that physical injury can lead to mental illness will help you take steps to recognise the symptoms, identify a problem, and prevent it. Let’s look at these issues in more detail:

Physical Ailments

You may have already experienced a worker taking unplanned time off because of a back injury. Long-term musculoskeletal disorders, such as lower back issues, are the most common types of injury.

Causes of Physical Ailments

Most physical ailments are caused by incorrect manual handling practices, for example:

  • Lifting, handling, or carrying heavy/awkward loads
  • Twisting, turning, and bending the back, neck, or torso
  • Manoeuvring in areas that require stretching to reach
  • Working in a cramped environment with unstable flooring

You may be tempted to quickly lift a product onto a conveyor to speed up production, but over time the body can wear down and physical ailments may develop.

Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Disorders

There are many symptoms of musculoskeletal disorder to look out for and they can range from a mildly uncomfortable to severely disabling pain, including:

  • Localised or widespread pain
  • Limited movement
  • Dull aches
  • Swelling
  • Aching or stiffness
  • Overworked muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Twitching or ‘burning’ sensation in muscles

These symptoms can be difficult to manage and make day-to-day tasks challenging—particularly if the worker’s job has caused or contributed to the illness. In 2019/20, about 8.9 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. These conditions can take a long time to develop. Repeated strain over prolonged periods of time put you at a higher risk of developing an injury. You may not notice the damage that repetitive strain has on you until it is too late, so it is very important that employers and workers should engage in safe and effective manual handling best practices to help avoid problems. 

Mental Ailments

Poor mental health can be a side effect of chronic musculoskeletal disorders. The toll of a debilitating physical injury can have an adverse effect on mental health.  It can also be as a significant on your ability to manage day-to-day tasks as the injury itself. One of the most common mental illnesses is depression and symptoms may include:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • Changes in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)
  • Lack of physical and mental energy
  • Disturbed sleep

The effects of depression will vary from person to person, but in cases that are triggered by musculoskeletal disorders, sufferers may experience an overlap in the type of symptoms they have both mentally and physically.

How To Prevent Ailments From Manual Handling

To avoid the effect that work-place injuries could have on your business, it is sensible to ensure that incorrect manual handling is avoided. Here are some actions you can take to prevent them.

Provide adequate training for your workers, to ensure that they understand how to correctly lift and handle products. Training will enable your workers to access the knowledge and techniques required to prevent physical injury and the potential for mental illnesses to arise. Where possible, eliminate handling tasks that puts your workers at risk by providing handling devices that take the strain and prevent injury.

Materials handling equipment can remove the burden of lifting, carrying, and handling for your workers. It can complete repetitive, strenuous tasks easily, reducing the exertion needed from workers and provide other benefits for your business. Mechanical handling devices enable your workers to complete tasks, quickly and efficiently, boosting productivity and increasing output more cost effectively.

If you are interested in exploring the types of materials handling equipment available to help you improve worker safety and productivity, contact Handling Concepts today to find the right solution to achieve your goals.

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