Construction workers' daily tasks often include manual lifting, but there are work methods and processes which keep injury risks to a minimum.
Workplaces must train their workers about the potential risks from manual tasks and be specific about the risk factors found in the actual tasks workers are expected to perform. For example, workers who are handling sheets of plasterboard or boxes of tiles must be made aware that these tasks require high force and awkward postures.
There is no definitive best way to lift because any manual lifting that requires force, awkward or static postures, or is repetitive, will contain some risk of injury. Teaching people how to lift, or using programs that include lifting techniques such as keeping a neutral spine and bending your knees or bracing your abdominals, is ineffective and a waste of employers' time and money.
In the construction industry, employers must provide training to workers on exactly what controls can be used to manage these risks, such as mechanical aids, tools and equipment.
Involve your workers and subcontractors in the training, particularly when you're identifying the parts of the job that may cause them the greatest strain or are difficult to perform. This will help to identify the most effective and safest way to get the job done.
Remember, high work demands and other mental health stressors can contribute to a sprain and strain injury.
Ask your workers some simple questions:
- What are the tiring, painful, difficult tasks for you or others?
- What would you suggest to reduce the risks of workers being injured because of manual tasks?
- What needs to change?
Always consider redesigning the task or using mechanical aids that eliminate the need to lift first before talking about safety procedures and other administrative controls.
If you're wondering whether you have a hazardous manual task and need to do something about it, check out this simple worksheet (PDF, 0.23 MB).
Check out our hazardous manual tasks resources, including two risk assessment tools for manual tasks at worksafe.qld.gov.au.