Manual injuries can be random and unpredictable even when proper safety measures are taken.
It accounts for over 30% of workplace injuries, so its something every safety manager must watch out for. There are many different types of manual handling injuries and the hazards that cause them.
The most common among these is back or spinal injury, which is caused by lifting heavy objects using incorrect body posture and poor technique.
Other common types include cuts, cuts, scrapes or punctures from sharp items such as knives, lacerations from animal bites and burns from hot liquids or metals.
The causes may be either physical (body bending if moving a heavy object with your hands) or chemical (inhaling paint fumes).
Prevention should begin with training to educate workers on how to perform tasks correctly. Especially where heavy equipment must be moved about for maintenance purposes.
This will help reduce accidents in the workplace in addition to saving time and money spent traveling to and from the hospital.
The following are some of the types of manual handling injuries and hazards that cause them:
#1 – Back Injury
Back injury is one of the most common forms of workplace hazards. It occurs when a worker lifts an object using incorrect body posture, causing damage to the spine.
The risks involved in lifting heavy objects can be reduced by implementing a safe working program for all employees in your workforce.
Your workers must, therefore; attend regular back safety training courses so they will know how to lift effectively without putting strain on their backs.
Items should then also be neatly stacked rather than being left loosely piled-up near work areas where they can fall over easily thereby causing accidents during routine maintenance tasks.
For heavier items such as furniture or a photocopier, it is recommended that you use mechanical means instead of a single employee trying to do all the work alone.
The hazards that cause back injuries include:
- Incorrect body posture while moving heavy objects or equipment, especially from the floor to overhead heights; and bending over repeatedly in a static manner such as when emptying bins or sorting through paperwork and files.
- Poor manual handling techniques which might otherwise lead to back muscle strain or other forms of injury involving the spine if heavy items are being lifted incorrectly.
- Ergonomic risk factors that can increase your chances of suffering back injuries include not training workers on how they should lift heavy objects (or at least educating them about correct lifting techniques).
- Other body parts such as the shoulders and the lower back can also be affected by lifting heavy objects. These risks are increased when the worker has been pre-occupied with another type of activity such as checking their phone messages while they are at work and this makes them unaware of potential hazards that they may face (such as moving a heavy item without realizing it).
#2 – Hand Injury
Hand injuries usually occur during routine maintenance tasks carried out on items such as machinery or equipment.
These injuries occur frequently because workers do not use protective measures such as gloves when handling sharp objects or hot liquids.
Injuries have also occurred due to the use of gloves or of workers not being educated on how to use them correctly.
The effects of hand injuries include:
Cuts and scratches from sharp items – These may be caused by knives, saws, screwdrivers, broken glass or any other objects that have sharp edges which can easily cut your skin if you are not wearing the right safety equipment such as a pair of gloves.
In some cases, this will lead to blood poisoning even though the wound appears quite small.
The infections can also spread to other parts of the body thereby leading to complications. You may consequently lose your limbs if these are infected badly enough for you to require amputation surgery;
Burns – These are caused when hot molten substances such as molten solder and metal surfaces come into contact with your skin and lead to severe burns which may require amputation.
This usually happens during maintenance tasks like when a worker is replacing or repairing an item such as a piece of machinery;
Eye injury – These are caused by frayed wires that might be found in equipment parts, broken machinery parts, solder splashes, small pieces of metal or any other sharp objects that unexpectedly fly off after another part of the item has been damaged or broken. Thereby causing flying objects to injure a worker’s eye.
#3 – Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) Injury
Repetitive hand movements involving repeated actions can cause damage to your nerves and muscles over time.
HAVS occurs when you repeatedly perform the same motions in the same way over and over again, such as when you hold a pen or do hand movements that are very repetitive in nature to move an object from one point to another.
There is also equipment that can relieve symptoms of vibration syndrome by using mechanical tools such as power brakes and pneumatic lifts.
However, these should be used with care because they might cause injury if you use them incorrectly.
For instance, workers may not be aware of potential hazards involved with machinery that they are working on during routine maintenance tasks like painting equipment or replacing parts, which may cause them to accidentally damage some components that might lead to HAVS injuries eventually.
#4 – Chemical Injury (Skin Contact)
Skin contact with chemicals can result in irritation or swelling of the skin.
This can happen if a worker is not aware of potential dangers that they might be exposed to when carrying out routine tasks like handling chemicals in a confined space, cleaning equipment and parts, and doing maintenance on machinery.
·According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration), 20% of all workers in manufacturing establishments have suffered from chemical burns due to accidental exposure during in their work environment.
Skin injuries have also been known to occur due to overexposure to detergents and other cleaning products that are used in industries such as laundry services, restaurants and hospitals.
Respiratory tract irritations may also arise from inhaling vapors released by various chemicals during storage and use thereby leading one to experience coughing, burning and other reactions that affect the body in a negative way.
#5 – Manual Materials Handling
These are injuries sustained by workers who have the responsibility to carry out certain tasks such as loading and unloading of heavy materials, moving equipment parts from one place to another or transporting work materials such as bricks.
Although most companies take great care when handling these items, it is still possible for accidents to occur due to faulty products or poorly designed machinery components during transport thereby causing injury.
#6 – Fall Injuries
Falls can lead to head trauma, spinal cord injuries together with damage to major body organs like the kidney and liver in addition to broken bones.
Workers may accidentally fall off a platform, ladder or other elevated surfaces while carrying out their daily tasks.
Accidents may also happen when equipment is poorly placed creating a dangerous condition that leads to accidents such as injured workers who have fallen off scaffolding frames and structures due to bad work design by the company management and supervisors.
Additionally, fall injuries occur frequently on construction sites when workers fail to use proper fall protection devices.
#7 – Noise-induced Hearing Loss Injury
Excessive exposure to loud sounds like those produced by heavy machines, construction equipment and other industrial tools can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL is a condition that arises when workers are exposed to noises at high levels for extended periods, even after the sound has become too loud for safe levels thereby causing damage to the middle or inner ear.
#8 – Hand Stress Injuries
These are minor injuries that occur when you place your hand on an object with enough force in order to get it moving from one place to another.
Hand stress occurs when a job function requires repetitive cutting motion, for instance cutting electrical wiring by hand, or operating devices with hand pressure.
#9 – Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)
These are injuries that occur when you perform the same action over and over again for extended periods without taking a break or resting between tasks.
In some cases, they can cause severe damage to the joint areas of the body such as knees, ankles and wrist joints causing one a lot of discomfort that may affect their way of doing things in an unfavorable way.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration), MSDs account for 40% of all occupational illnesses and injuries among workers in private industries.
This means if half your employees encounter these types of injuries at work every year, you will be required to pay workers’ compensation insurance coverage on their behalf in addition to paying for workplace safety equipment and training including first aid classes.
#10 – Hand Injuries
These arise due to the improper use of hand tools such as screwdrivers, hammers and even knives or other sharp objects that may be found in the workplace.
These injuries occur when the tool is not used properly leading one to end up with a cut or wound on the hands which could later turn gangrenous if not treated immediately after the accident occurs.