Manual handling training is important, not just to protect employees from injury, but also the organisation from potential massive hidden financial costs such as loss of productivity or further recruitment and subsequent training. Whilst back injuries are often the most injured areas, muscles, limbs, tendons and even the heart can be strained. These injuries quite often take longer to heal and can have a more significant effect on health in the future.
The training shouldn't just focus on the basics of lifting and lowering but also look at the task to be performed and identify ways in which minimises the risk of injury to the person. Back in 2011 a restaurant chain learnt the significance of this when one of its employees was left tetraplegic by a poorly planned handling task. In an old building in London some employees tried manoeuvring a 168kg cupboard around a narrow and twisting staircase only for it to become stuck. In trying to free it, one employee fell backwards through a first floor window to the pavement below. Imagine you are writing the risk assessment for a manual handling activity similar to that in the above incident. You've agreed the likelihood and possible consequences and concluded that extra controls are required. You cheerfully write "provide manual handling training" in the controls column requiring the job to not commence until that training has been received.
There are some tasks that flout the manual handling basics such as when the emergency services are called to a patient slumped on the small bathroom floor requiring immediate medical attention. Should they take five, complete the risk assessment and await a patient hoist to arrive? Or should they use the training and experience to move the patient in order to receive the medical attention required. In your place of work however you are invariably afforded the time to take five, assess the task at hand and implement the control measures required.
It is acknowledged that manual handling training is near the bottom of the control hierarchy; we know it is better to eliminate manual handling tasks than to train people. Though the risk should first be reduced through redesign of the task and environment, there will invariably be some form of manual handling operations that remain, we need training to manage this residual risk effectively.