Preventing injury – Manual Handling

We have recently been made aware of a HSE visit to a decorating client where the handling of plasterboard was identified as an issue for the Inspector. Handling plasterboard might not seem overly dangerous, however the HSE’s stance was that the use of plasterboard lifts was required to reduce the risk of injury. Despite the client’s protests, the HSE Inspector was inflexible and required the client to reconsider their Safe Systems of Work within 24 hours or to expect a Fee For Intervention letter.

We appreciate how busy you are, and so in light of the above, we thought it would be a good idea to quickly summarise the HSE’s guidance in these situations (full details are available from the HSE document CIS76).

  • Firstly, all panels should be loaded by machine and a plan should be in place which covers where the panels are being delivered to, so that they are as close as possible to the area they are being used in.
  • Movement of plasterboard panels should be assisted by panel trolleys, panel grips or other mechanical aids to prevent manual handling injuries associated with the repeated strain on the body from handling heavy or awkward loads with poor posture.
  • Using plasterboard lifts or adjustable props to position the boards is the safest option. Where positioning aids cannot be used, for example in stairwells or tight spaces, then smaller boards that are easier to handle should be used.
  • If possible then internal access openings such as ‘letterbox’ floor slots should be created to prevent the need to carry panels through doorways or up stairs.
  • Finally all workers should be trained on how to use lifting equipment and handling aids safely as well as plasterboards being purchased from suppliers who mark their weight on the plasterboards themselves.

It is worthwhile remembering that manual handling injuries do not often come from one off tasks but rather prolonged exposure to improper bending and lifting techniques. Manual handling injuries make up a significant proportion of the injuries causing staff to be off on long term sick.

If you have any questions on how to tackle any Health & Safety issues on your site, please contact us 01302 341 344.

By Ian Clayton CMIOSH – H&S Manager

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