A range of wearable devices designed to help reduce the risk of pain and injury to backs, joints and limbs, in other words, musculoskeletal disorders, has come onto the market recently.

The devices electronically detect movement, angular rotation and free-fall and are designed to be used within organisations where employees experience occupational back injuries, such as healthcare, warehousing, manufacturing, logistics, retail and other such sectors. They are also used in clerical environments to assist those returning to work following a back or joint related illness, as well as for those experiencing ongoing back or joint pain.

Worn on a belt for manual handling monitoring purposes, the device vibrates to alert the wearer that they are stooping during rotation, a movement that should be avoided during handling or lifting.

Whilst in principle the concept of the wearable device for manual handling appears to be a good idea, with the physical prodding to remind the wearer that he or she is contravening correct procedure, the approach could potentially be likened to verbal prodding. In other words, is it really any different to someone saying, ‘bend your knees and keep your back straight’? And do people really understand why they have to bend their knees and keep their backs straight?

There is an old adage concerning teaching methods:

Tell me and I’ll forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I’ll understand

The key point here is, ‘understanding’. Whilst a wearable device will serve to remind an individual that they are not using correct procedure when moving a load, if that person does not actually understand WHY they are being reminded, then chances are they will simply continue to keep making the same mistakes.

If however they understand the knowledge and principles that form the backbone of good manual handling technique, and fully appreciate the injuries that can result otherwise, then they will naturally apply that good technique, and there will be no need for continual corrective prodding of any kind, whether physical or verbal.

At Alistair Bromhead Ltd, our manual handling training focuses on long term change of behaviour. We advocate getting participants both physically and mentally involved in the training, providing them with an understanding of the underpinning knowledge behind good manual handling practice, and what can happen if this good practice is not followed. This way, individuals are able to see the long term personal benefits of applying good manual handling technique whenever possible.

In summary

The key message here is that, whilst wearable devices for manual handling can be useful in terms of reminding handlers that they are not using the correct technique, the ideal scenario is to ensure handlers are trained in such a way in the first place that they should not need prompting. With an ingrained understanding of what can happen physiologically should the correct procedure not be followed, the risk of injury is considerably reduced.

At Alistair Bromhead Ltd we offer a comprehensive range of manual handling training and train the trainer courses, all of which are fully interactive, designed to bolster understanding of the physiological aspects of lifting and handling, and totally customisable.

To learn more about our range of manual handling courses, to make a booking or to discover how we can tailor a course to suit your specific needs, call 0800 710 1099 or email info@abromhead.co.uk.