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Team Handling: A Guide to Reducing the Risks

01 July 2016

Some manual handling tasks call for more than one pair of hands. If a load is particularly tricky to get a hold on, awkward to control or bulky, then team handling may be the answer, and can prove beneficial.

It is also regularly assumed that the heavier the load, the more handlers the better. However, this may not always be the case. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that when a load is being handled by two people, each of them should only handle a maximum of 66 per cent of their individual capability. When three handlers are involved, the maximum for each should not exceed 50 per cent.

The reasons behind these recommendations are manifold. Firstly, if there are differences between what each of the handlers can deal with, perhaps because they vary in stature or capability, then this could lead to disparity in the speed at which the load is lifted and carried.

Secondly, there could be issues with coordination, leading to inconsistences in the timing of lifting and moving the load. Communication problems may also arise which could cause confusion as to when to lift and in what direction to move. And in areas where space is limited, the more handlers involved, the greater the challenge to complete the task safely and efficiently.

Reducing the Risks in Team Handling Tasks

The HSE recommends a number of measures in order to reduce the risks involved in team handling tasks. These measures start with trying to eliminate the manual handling involved in the task altogether. If elimination is not possible, it is recommended to use automation such as forklift trucks. If handlers need to be used, handling aids should be considered followed by ‘people related measures’ such as the right training, team handling, safe working procedures and personal protective equipment.

If loads can be made smaller and any potentially harmful features eradicated, such as being sharp, hot or cold, then this will help to reduce the risks involved, as will ensuring handholds are well positioned so that handlers can lift and hold the load as close to the body as possible. Handlers should be shown how to move towards the load rather than reach out to it.

The HSE has published a team handling risk assessment guide which can be used to assess a team handling operation.

If your working processes call for team handling, tailored training will further reduce the risk of injury to handlers. Alistair Bromhead Ltd runs a flexible manual handling training course which can be adapted to suit individual needs in terms of the loads that are typically handled and the way they are handled. The course is designed to be engaging and motivational and involves practical handling exercises, including for team situations. If required, it can be run in-house so as to incorporate training for your company’s specific handling processes.

For more information or to book your course, please get in touch.

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