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Manual handling. A pain in the ***!

Manual handling accidents account for more than 1/3 of all reported at-work accidents, of which 2/3 involve an over-three day injury. The most common injury is to the back and/or spine. The regulations, brought into effect in January 1993 and amended in 2002 are set to give guidance to employers and employees on how best to reduce musculoskeletal incidents at work. If you work in events you should know what's what.

What does it mean?

As with all Health & Safety legislation, this regulation should not be viewed in isolation. There is a general requirement to assess all risks at work. However, manual handling does cause significant numbers of injuries and as such measures should be put in place to help avoid these injuries. It is important to note that any action to reduce manual handling should be ‘reasonably practicable’.

In terms of action points, these are the guidelines from the HSE.

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations as far as is reasonably practicable. This may be done by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.
  • Make a suitable and sufficient assessment of any hazardous manual handling operations that cannot be avoided.
  • Reduce the risk of injury from those operations so far as is reasonably practicable. Where possible, mechanical assistance should be provided. Where not possible, then changes to the task, the load and the working environment should be explored.

Manual handling is not just about moving heavy or awkward loads. It also includes repetitive movements and pushing and pulling. There are also guidelines for allowable weights to be carried by men (25kg) and women (16kg) but these depend on the type of load being carried and where the load is situated, when aligned to the body position. For example if the load is carried at shoulder height the guideline for men is reduced to 5kg. If twisting is involved the guidelines suggest reducing the weight by as much as 20%. If repetitive movement is involved then the weights should be reduced from between 30% to 80%. There are different weight guidelines again for pushing and pulling and for team handling operations.

What does this mean in event management?

All health & safety is a shared responsibility. By the employer and by employees (assuming they are appropriately trained). Self-employed individuals (freelancers) are responsible for their own health & safety but if they take instruction from another person (or firm) they would probably be considered the same as employed. (Only the courts can confirm this but that’s an expensive way to find out!).

Event managers organise exhibitions, conferences, roadshows, sampling, and other events. As the event manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that appropriate assessments have been made to minimise risk, including any manual handling risk, and it is your employers’ responsibility to ensure you know how to do this. Even if you do not undertake manual handling yourself, as an event manager you are undoubtedly in the unusual position of having people report into you who may be required to undertake manual handling. If they are following your instructions, you share their H&S responsibility. You should therefore be adequately informed on manual handling regulations.

Environmental factors may come into play more with events than in an office environment. Many events are sited in fields/pastures. The ground may be wet, uneven, soft, etc. Set up and de-rigging for these events can often go into the evenings where light may play its part. If it is excessively windy or raining, this may also affect safe manual handling.

If product sampling and undertaking the same repetitive routine regularly and over time, it is possible that this can affect the upper limbs.

Positioning a heavy, wheeled-generator for use with a mobile exhibition trailer when on grass is considerably more difficult than on a solid surface.

Even if you are the client and you have suppliers undertaking much of the work on your behalf, it is still likely that you will be involved in some form of manual handling. Moving literature boxes from your car to the exhibition stand may seem a simple task but if you have to carry that box for any distance, the strain on your arms and your back will be significant.

As with all H&S, your main duty is to ensure risk of injury / damage is minimised. Knowledge of what is required, along with adequate risk assessments is the answer. Risk assessments should be undertaken with those who undertake the role as they will undoubtedly know first-hand what the risks are, and can probably offer solutions that are practical and can be easily followed.

Generic risk assessments are permitted and can simply be altered to account for the prevailing conditions. Do not fill out the paperwork and file it away. Ensure the information is shared and regularly reviewed.

And manual handling could hurt more than your muscles or skeleton. Fines can be considerable as can compensation. A court ruled a back injury at work in 2008 was worth £750,000

Do you know what you should know? Or do you just think you know?

Event Training

We call it the Knowledge Audit. Critical must-know information when planning and managing events. A training course. An assessment tool. A knowledge audit. If you're not sure what you don't know then this will probably be the best training investment you have ever made. Priced from £25.  Find out more »

Legislation News

The Equality Act 2010 was launched in October. It pulls together historical pieces of legislation and puts them all under one umbrella. It is about equality and discrimination and how to assess, plan, manage and control these issues. 

To read more about this Act, keep signing into Relevant Risk or visit the Government Equality Office.

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Supplier review?

Mad woman

If you handle hundreds of events every year and employ numerous agencies, either under contract or ad-hoc, it may be time to undertake a risk review with your suppliers.

Responsibility and liability is often shared and certainly cannot be transferred - even by contract - particularly if the matter falls under criminal law.

Your suppliers. Your duty of care.

Interested to hear more. Contact us or read more about our assessment.