Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Many of workplaces have workers doing jobs that involve lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling throughout the day. Hazardous manual handling is one of the biggest causes of workplace injuries, but what is it really costing us? The real numbers are huge and should be cause for concern for all employers.
How Do Hazardous Manual Handling Injuries Occur?
Workplace injuries often occur from hazardous manual tasks. SafeWork Australia’s -The Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice- October 2018 defines a hazardous manual task is hazardous if it involves any of the following characteristics:
repetitive or sustained force (e.g. prolonged sitting or standing);
high or sudden force
repetitive movements - (e.g. frequently repetitive actions, without breaks);
sustained and/or awkward posture, (e.g. bending forwards, twisting or reaching); or
exposure to vibration – whole-body (e.g. sitting in certain vehicles) and hand-arm (eg using certain powered tools).
The Cost of Manual Handling Injuries
According to Safe Work Australia’s Australian Workers Compensation Report for 2018-19 there were over 104,700 serious claims. A claim is considered serious if more than one week off work is needed to recover from an injury.
Of the claims, 90% related to injury and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and 10% diseases. Of the 90% of non-disease related claims, 45% were injuries caused by manual handling. It is estimated that manual handling injuries cost the Australian economy $28 billion every year.
The three occupations with the highest rate of serious claims calculated per million hours worked were labourers (17.7% of all claims), machinery operators and drivers (11.1%) and community and personal service workers (10.7%).
Males accounted for 64% of the serious claims and work 59% of hours while females accounted for 36% of claims and work 41% of hours.
Which Age Group is Most at Risk of Injury?
Older workers are more at risk of a serious injury with the 55 to 59-year-old group accounting for 12.5 serious claims per 1000, followed by the 50 to 54 age group with 12.1 claims. Workers aged between 25 and 34 years were at a much lower rate of risk with 7.7.
The Mental Cost of Manual Handling Injuries
Workplace injuries can’t be measured by the economic cost alone. Some workers pay a high mental price following a workplace injury.
An injured worker is at risk of depression due to the pain, time away from work and medication. There is the potential that the psychological cost can far exceed the cost of the injury itself.
Family members can also suffer. Injured workers may become detached from reality and their family. The injured family member can have trouble sleeping, eating and may feel anxious or nervous which can put relationships under pressure.
How can Manual Handling Injuries be Reduce?
Raising awareness of workplace health and safety has improved over the last decade. The knowledge has translated into improvements in the number of injuries in some industries but not as effective in others.
Thorough education of your workers and making safety a part of every employees’ workday has made improvements. Body stressing accounted for 39% of the workers’ compensation claims with most caused by muscular stress from handling, carrying and putting objects down.
A continued commitment from all employers in all industries and workers towards safe manual handling will see a reduction in the number of workplace injuries.
If you would like some assistance with an assessment of manual handling duties in your workplace, contact iiNexus Global via the contact us.