When working in the care sector, moving and handling is often a considerable part of your job. Here we will cover the different events in which moving and handling is required, the legislation that is in place to protect both you and the people you care for, common injuries that you might face as a result of moving and handling and the steps that can be taken to lessen the likelihood of injury.
The Health and Safety Executive found that approximately 120,000 people were injured as a result of manual handling incidents in the last year, and as such it is important for people who are required to participate in moving and handling practices as part of their role to understand how to stay safe and what legislation protects them at work.
Moving and handling refers to the act of ‘manual handling of people’
In previous years it would often simply be referred to as ‘manual handling’, in the same way that you would speak of moving and living heavy boxes or equipment. It is now termed ‘moving and handling’ in order to differentiate that you are moving and handling people, rather than heavy machinery, and it therefore requires a specific set of legislation.
Tasks related to moving and handling
Moving and handling in the care sector encompasses any time that you support a person in your care to move. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Helping people to get in and out of bed.
- Supporting with bathing, showering and bed baths.
- Supporting people to use the toilet.
- Helping the people in your care to walk.
- Supporting people when sitting down.
- Supporting when getting into and out of a vehicle.
Legislation helps to protect you and those in your care from injury
The reason that the legislation is so stringent when it comes to moving and handling is so that both employees and those being cared for can stay safe in the care environment. There are a few different legislative documents that come into play here. These are:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
All of this legislation will be considered when a care facility writes its moving and handling policy. Each piece of legislation should be followed in order to abide by the guidance, prevent injury and keep everybody safe. These documents outline the responsibilities that employers have towards their staff and members of the public to reduce the risk of injury.
The legislation focuses upon reducing risk and risk assessments
You will probably be familiar with risk assessments and will likely follow them on a daily basis as part of your workplace policies. Risk assessments are carried out in a multitude of different topics within a care facility. When it specifically comes to moving and handling, formal risk assessments will be conducted into each moving and handling task in order to find the best methods to use to keep everybody safe. These risk assessments will then form part of the employer’s moving and handling policy.
Injuries that usually occur as the result of moving and handling
Let’s look specifically at the injuries employees who are responsible for moving and handling are at risk of: muscle injuries, joint injuries and spinal injuries.
There is a misconception that these injuries happen as the result of a one-off event, but often injuries occur as the result of repeated strain on a certain area of the body. For example, when supporting a person to get out of bed, you could do this action many, many times before an injury becomes apparent as a result of repetitive strain on that area of your body. A study by the HSE found that 41% of injuries occurred to the upper limbs or neck, 40% to the back and 19% to the lower limbs. This is a combination of injuries resulting from a one-off event and repetitive strain injuries.
Each year over 6.9 million working days are lost due to an injury in one of these areas of the body. Injuries can happen even if the workplace has fulfilled all of their legislative requirements and staff perform the manoeuver properly, however the likelihood is reduced if this is the case. This is why the legislation is in place.
Injuries can impact upon our mental health
It is worth being aware that an injury caused by moving and handling can have a knock on effect on your mental health. This is especially apparent if you have a long-term disorder as a result of a moving and handling injury.
Taking care of our mental health is as important as taking care of our physical health. If you notice any of these symptoms after a workplace injury has occurred, it is important to seek treatment. Symptoms include low mood, lack of energy, hopelessness, disturbed sleep, changes in weight, feeling useless and low self-esteem.
Factors that increase the risk of injury from moving and handling
Typical risk factors that can increase the risk of injury include:
- The type of work. If you are working in a fixed posture for a long period of time, your likelihood of injury is increased.
- The layout of the workplace. If you are working in a poorly designed area that is cramped, this can cause you to assume awkward postures when moving and handling. This can result in injury.
- The weight of the object. Obviously it goes without saying that if an object, in our case a person, is heavy they are going to be more difficult to lift.
- The location of the person. If they are in a difficult location, such as on the floor, they are going to be far more difficult to move safely.
- People are difficult to lift/move. This is due to their size, shape and clothing. It can mean that grasping the person to move them is difficult. In addition to that, unlike stationary objects, people have a tendency to move. Sudden movements while you are moving a person can cause injuries.
- Shortages of staff can make moving and handling difficult. This can mean that you don’t have enough people present to move the individual safely. Your employer should intervene at this point and make sure that there are enough members of staff to follow moving and handling policy.
It is the responsibility of your employer to make sure that all of the factors above are alleviated where possible, and if they cannot be entirely eliminated, the moving and handling policy should reflect this and adaptations should be made.
Controlling the risk of injury
Controlling the risk of injury is often outlined in the risk assessments. When those responsible for writing and implementing the risk assessments first begin their assessments they will take a look at all of the factors above and see what can be put into place to alleviate these issues. This often comes in the form of staffing, training and equipment.
- Staffing levels – ensuring that there is an adequate number of staff to safely perform manoeuvers is one of the first things that is considered in a risk assessment. Guidance and legislation will support the staff members responsible for risk assessments to decide on optimum staffing levels for moving and handling techniques. At this stage it should also be considered where these members of staff are coming from and how their posts would be covered during this time.
- Moving and handling equipment – this equipment is an ideal way to keep everybody safe during moving and handling. The equipment can even reduce the number of staff required for certain maneuvers and therefore can be very useful in a care setting. This equipment includes slide-sheets, turn-disks, wheelchairs, hoists and slings. Training should always be given to staff using this equipment.
- Training – this is the big one! How can staff stay safe if they haven’t had moving and handling training? Training staff on how to perform moving and handling techniques can help them to feel more comfortable and knowledgeable during situations where moving and handling is required. Also, training around legislation is also particularly useful as staff can understand why certain policies are in place, what their rights are and what the rights of the people they are caring for are.
Moving and handling is always going to pose some element of risk
It is down to employers to put the procedures and risk assessments in place to alleviate as much of the risk as possible for their staff and the people in their care. Through training, equipment, staffing and up-to-date policies, many of the risks of moving and handling can be reduced butthere will always be some risk there. Understand the legislation and working safely will reduce this risk to the minimal amount.