With the festive season just around the corner, retailers will be preparing for the biggest rush of the year. With such a large proportion of Christmas shopping now done online, possibly the greatest upturn in activity will be found on the picking and packing lines, with parcel upon parcel being prepared for despatch.

It is at this time of year that many retailers take on additional, temporary staff to cope with the increased demand. Even in large scale internet-based retail operations with automated picking systems, there is often a need to employ temporary manual help as such systems often cannot cope with the amplified volume of orders.

The aim of swelling the workforce in this way is to create a cost effective and profitable method of dealing with the year’s biggest seasonal peak. However, unless steps are taken to protect these temporary workers from sustaining injuries whilst carrying out their duties, the economy may turn out to be a false one.

909,000 Working Days Lost to Handling Injuries

The Labour Force Survey estimated that 909,000 working days were lost to handling injuries between 2013 and 2014 with an average of 6.6 days lost for each injury. The Survey also suggested that the main work activities causing or making back disorders worse were lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling, as well as awkward or tiring positions and workplace accidents.

Employers have general duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999 to assess and control all risks to the health and safety of their employees. This includes musculoskeletal risks from repetitive actions such as picking and packing.

Manual Handling Training MUST Extend to Temporary Workers

Whilst employers generally do pay attention to the importance of good quality manual handling training when it comes to their permanent staff, the importance of extending this to temporary workers cannot be stressed enough. Whilst it may be considered a budgetary strain, the alternative could be far more expensive, both in terms of reduced productivity and compensation claims.

Many employers invest in various lifting and handling aids such as lift trucks, rollers, trolleys and hoists, which is a positive move. However, unless the employees using them are thoroughly trained in how to do so safely, the investment is likely to turn out to be a waste. This is where tailored training is so important, and such training should extend to all workers, whether permanent or temporary.

A Budget Friendly Solution

Of course, as previously mentioned, it all comes down to budget. However, there is a workaround in the form of manual handler train the trainer courses. If you were to have your own in-house trainers, qualified to provide training and support to your picking and packing personnel, then aside from their time spent giving the training and the initial one-time cost of training the trainers, there will be no further direct cost to your organisation.

The City & Guilds manual handling train the trainer qualification is a 2-day practical course that will equip your appointed staff members with the skills required to provide manual handling training – and refresher training – to any of your workforce who may require it. Courses can be open, or run in-house if you have 5-12 staff requiring the instructor training. The in-house courses will focus on your particular individual handling scenarios including the use of any manual handling aids.

For further information or to book a course email info@abromhead.co.uk or call 07932 674707.