Cranes – The Safe Alternative to Manual
Despite falls in the number of handling related accidents and lost working days there is still room for further improvement. Eliminating the need for manual handling should always be at the heart of any risk assessment and reduction strategy. But in many construction, civil engineering and agricultural applications where the employee uses a commercial vehicle there is often no alternative to lifting and handling. In these cases it is essential to use some form of mechanical handling device such as a vehicle mounted crane.
The latest official figures from the HSE show that industrial injuries related to manual handling remain the biggest cause of time off work in the UK. Almost 35 per cent of reportable workplace injuries, and 16 per cent of all major injuries, in the year ending April 2008 were related to handling. The statistics further reveal that around 1,300,000 days lost working days were due to handling, lifting or carrying and that the average absence from work was seven days. A fair proportion of these involve handling items on and off vans, pickups and other commercial vehicles. Workers in construction and agriculture are most at risk.
Increased awareness of general workplace health and safety issues has led to a decrease in the number of accidents and injuries but there is still more to do. The rules are becoming more stringent and the enforcers more vigilant. Unfortunately accidents and injuries will continue to occur so the efforts of the HSE and other agencies are geared towards reducing them as far as possible. Employers have a duty of care to ensure their staff have the right tools and equipment do their jobs safely. Those that do not could be opening themselves up to a whole load of potential problems if an accident occurs, including disruption to their business, loss of skilled and experienced employees, costs for temporary and permanent replacements, compensation claims, and legal action by the police and regulators.
Realistically there are only two ways to reduce the risks associated with manual handling. The first is to ensure any manual handling remains inside the current guidelines. This is why, for example, packs of minerals and aggregates used in the building and related trades are now found in smaller sizes. The recommended maximum weight to be lifted under any circumstances is just 25kg for men and 15kg for women, not much when one considers that this less than the weight of a typical bag of sand or cement.
More often, though, items such as tools, plant and materials cannot be made smaller or lighter and it is neither practical or possible to eliminate the handling requirement. When this occurs the only real option is to use some form of mechanical handling aid. There are many choices available but by far the most popular when handling items on and off commercial vehicles is a small crane