It seems to have been a common theme in the past few months: in January we reported how the Health and Safety Executive had prosecuted and fined automotive parts manufacturer Mahle Powertrain following numerous accounts of workers sustaining back injuries during manual handling tasks, as well as how a Burger King franchise had also been fined after a member of staff was scalded by hot oil.

Then in April, we posted about how retailer Wilko had also been levied a substantial fine following yet another manual handling related incident that left a young worker with life changing injuries. And in May, it was the turn of furniture giant DFS to receive a significant fine after a worker was knocked unconscious whilst unloading furniture parts.

Also in May, a construction firm was found guilty of manslaughter after two workmen fell to their deaths whilst renovating a multi-million pound Belgravia flat.

Latest Prosecution for Manual Handling Failures Follows Fatal Incident in London

Martinisation (London) Limited was found guilty of health and safety breaches and two charges of corporate manslaughter, whilst the firm’s managing director was convicted of breaching health and safety.

The tragic incident occurred whilst the workers were hauling a heavy sofa 20 feet up to a balcony. The company had failed to include in its health and safety training any instructions on lifting operations, and the risk assessment was only available in English, whereas the workers all had Polish as their first language. This led the prosecutor to conclude that the risk assessment and policy documents ‘were effectively for show and nothing more’.

The issue over inadequate manual handling risk assessments as well as a lack of training seems to be the overriding theme in all these cases. Where risk assessments are not site-specific and tailored to the individual circumstances and nature of the task in hand, it is impossible to ascertain the type of training required, and the most appropriate manual handling aids that should be used.

Generic Risk Assessments a Hazard in Themselves

It is an unfortunate fact and something that is evident amongst many organisations that generic risk assessments are used as standard. These cover a wide array of topics under just one brief review. However, the likes of machinery, hazardous substances, fire, noise, working environment and manual handling really do call for an individual approach, especially as all of these topics are underpinned by literally hundreds of pages of detailed guidance which organisations should seriously be taking into account when they undertake their risk assessments.

All too often we see risk assessments where manual handling is relegated to just one or two lines. Simply stating that something is ‘heavy’ without going into detail about the additional risks of moving it, such as whether there are steps to tackle, slippery floors, uneven surfaces, corners to turn, etc. really is not at all sufficient. Furthermore, where it is deemed that manual handling aids should be used to move an item, a separate risk assessment on the use of those aids should also be produced, as well as specific training being made available.

Risk assessments should never be just for show. They are highly important documents that could actually save lives. It is a sad fact that so many fatalities and life changing injuries have resulted from inadequate manual handling risk assessments.

Manual Handling Risk Assessment Training Courses

The Alistair Bromhead Ltd Manual Handling Risk Assessor Certificate is a one day course that equips staff with the knowledge they need to undertake manual handling risk assessments. Using a practical and interactive approach, the course includes ample hands-on exercises so that the attendee can gain a first-hand understanding of the risks associated with manual handling tasks. By bringing these skills in-house so that you have a certificated risk assessor within your team, you will not only be protecting your workforce, but saving on resources and costs too. The course can be tailored to suit individual needs and can be extended depending on the size of the group and level of risk.

In addition, the Manual Handling Train the Trainer City & Guilds Accredited Programme offers risk assessment theory together with a practical element which incorporates the use of the Health and Safety Executive template for risk assessments. Run by highly experienced instructors, this two day course provides a nationally recognised certificate. Again it can be fully tailored to individual needs and there is also the option to hold the course in-house, which is ideal where there are 5 to 12 staff requiring training.

Health and safety risk assessments can literally save lives, providing they are correctly undertaken. For more information on these courses call 0800 710 1099 or email