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Latest Statistics from the HSE Expose the Need for Further Mechanical Handling in Warehouse Environments

Latest Statistics from the HSE Expose the Need for Further Mechanical Handling in Warehouse Environments

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), manual handling injuries represent over a third of accidents reported annually.

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), manual handling injuries represent over a third of accidents reported annually. Accordingly, the latest update to Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, embrace continuing best practice and legislative amendments (notably European directives).

This latest amendment also documents risks from activities like lifting, loading, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving materials and outlines the duties requiring employers to comply with the Regulations. The Regulation is applicable in all work places, whether loads are inanimate, e.g. trolleys or boxes, or animate such as persons or animals.

Injuries in the workplace cause lasting damage and can affect employees’ long term health and ability to work in the future. This not only has a detrimental effect on the employee, but can also lead to serious legal action against the employer if it can be proven that you did not take the necessary precautions to protect them from harm. It is therefore very important to have a thorough understanding of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of injury in a warehouse environment and understand what, as an employer you can do to eliminate risk.

The HSE have identified certain priority topics requiring attention within the storage and warehousing industry in particular. These are “manual handling/musculoskeletal disorders, slips and trips, vehicles in and around the warehouse and work at height.” The following guidance will help employers to reduce all these types of incident in a warehouse environment.

Lifting Equipment and Fork Lift Trucks

'Lifting equipment' means not only work equipment such as goods lifts for lifting and lowering loads but includes lifting accessories and attachments used for anchoring, fixing or supporting the equipment.

The Regulations that apply to lifting equipment and fork lift trucks is Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER). LOLER aim to reduce risks to people’s health and safety from lifting equipment provided for use at work.

In relation to managing the risk, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 state it is necessary to “Introduce mechanisation where this is reasonably practicable”. When handling unit loads (sacks, boxes etc.) the regulations state that one should “consider installing full mechanical handling options. For example vacuum lifting devices, conveyors and computerised vacuum lift-assisted palletisers.”

In order to comply with LOLER, it is a requirement that lifting equipment provided for use at work is; strong and stable enough for the particular use and marked to indicate safe working loads; positioned and installed to minimise any risks; used safely, i.e. the work is planned, organised and performed by competent people; subject to on-going Thorough Examination and, where appropriate, inspected by competent people.

A Health & Safety or insurance inspector will expect to be able to see Reports of Thorough Examination by a competent person for warehouse equipment such as; fork lift trucks; overhead cranes and their supporting runways; vehicle tail lifts and cranes fitted to vehicles; a building cleaning cradle and its suspension equipment; goods lifts and passenger lifts & lifting accessories for example; fibre or rope slings; chains; hooks and eyebolts; magnetic and vacuum devices.

Work Equipment

The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) have to be considered when considering work equipment. PUWER places duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. It also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned or not.

In order to comply with the regulations, PUWER requires that equipment such as fork lift trucks, stretch wrap machines, conveyor belts, ladders and racking are; suitable for the intended use; safe for use; maintained in a safe condition and inspected for installation and deterioration; used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training; accompanied by suitable measures such as guarding, protective devices, controls and markings and used in accordance with specific requirements.

Examples of compliance with PUWER vary, but will generally include; fixed guards on moving parts of conveyor belts and stretch wrap machines; racking installed by competent persons and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions; racking suitable for the loads, not modified and displaying maximum loads/configuration signs; lift trucks fitted with seat belts, roll cages and audible/visible alarms; access equipment suitable for task, maintained and in good condition e.g. ladders, mobile elevating working platforms (MEWPS), mobile steps and emergency stop devices and visible markings on work equipment.

Manual Handling

Manual handling injuries are part of a wider group of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Statistics from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) indicate that MSD cases, account for more than a third of all work-related illnesses.

In terms of legal obligations, The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require employers to; avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable; assess the risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling that can’t be avoided and reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.

In order to comply, one key undertaking is risk assessments, although there are other considerations including; does the load need to be moved at all? If so, can it be moved mechanically by the use of work equipment such as a goods lift, for example?

If manual handling is the only option then there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the risk, including; making the load smaller or lighter and easier to lift; breaking up large consignments into more manageable loads; modifying the workstation to reduce carrying distances;

twisting movements, or the lifting of things from floor level, or from above shoulder height; improving the environment – e.g. better lighting, flooring or air temperature can sometimes make manual handling easier and safer and ensuring the person doing the lifting has been trained to lift as safely as possible.

A Health & Safety or insurance inspector will expect to see; a risk assessment specifically relating to manual handling issues; a record of any training given to staff relating to handling techniques and use of equipment; observation of the correct lifting technique demonstrated by staff, or correct use of mechanical handling aids/equipment; an appropriate number of mechanical lifting aids/equipment, in good working order, accompanied by adequate maintenance/service records; Thorough Examination certificates as required.

Work at Height

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 indicate that work at height is work in any place, including above or below ground level, where someone could fall and injure themselves.

Work at height, such as working on the bed of a commercial vehicle or on a mezzanine floor in a warehouse, should be carried out safely and employers must do all that is reasonably practicable to prevent anyone falling. For all tasks involving work at height, risk assessments must be completed and risks from both falling staff and objects must be considered.

In order to comply with regulations; work at height must be adequately planned, supervised and carried out in a safe manner; employers must ensure the people working at height are trained and competent to carry out their duties; equipment selected must be appropriate for the job; equipment must be inspected regularly; mobile elevating working platforms (MEWPS) must be Thoroughly Examined at least once in every 6 month period (LOLER); there must be a system for reporting and managing defects and a plan for emergencies and a risk assessment for work on, or accessing the area at height (including for contractors).

A Health & Safety or insurance inspector will expect to see; documented risk assessments for any work at height (applicable if you have 5 or more employees.); Statutory Inspection reports for MEWPS; appropriate equipment for the task in good working order and staff adequately trained to fulfil their tasks.

Workplace Transport

In 2014 and 2015 over half the fatal injuries to workers were of three kinds: falls from height; being struck by a vehicle and being struck by a moving or falling object (RIDDOR). This equates to almost a quarter of all workplace transport accidents involving a forklift truck.

The regulations that apply to workplace transport are the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These regulations require employers and the self-employed to assess the risks to workers and others (e.g. contractors, customers and visiting drivers) from workplace transport.

In order to comply with the regulations, it is necessary to ensure safe vehicles, safe drivers and a safe site. Vehicles must be well maintained (brakes, reversing warnings, lights, horns etc.) and examined. Loads must be secure and not beyond capacity. Safe drivers that are trained, authorised, instructed and supervised must be used. Trained banks men must be used where reversing is carried out. A safe site must be maintained with suitable routes, roadways and parking (firm, even surfaces, routes marked with direction signs) speed limits, one way routes and lighting.

A Health & Safety or insurance inspector will expect to be able to see; driver certification; pre-shift truck checks; vehicles regularly serviced and (where necessary) Thoroughly Examined; pedestrian safety e.g. walkways; warning signs and pedestrian crossing points; high visibility clothing for anyone in the vicinity of moving vehicles; policy to inform suppliers/delivery drivers of site rules; safe access and egress to backs of delivery vehicles with footholds; ladders and/or grab rails; gangways and aisles of sufficient space to enable trucks to load/unload from racking safety; protective barriers on traffic routes and blind bends provided with fixed mirrors.

Storage Systems

The way that items are stored in a warehouse setting can also help to address manual handling issues. The law requires that storage areas should be specifically designated and clearly marked and the layout of storage and handling areas should avoid tight corners, pillars, changes of gradient and uneven surfaces.

In order to comply, business owners should ensure; safe working loads, heights, widths and equipment tolerances are set by designers and manufacturers of the system; racking is only installed by competent people; racking is erected on sound, level floors, capable of withstanding the point loading at each base and notices should be clearly displayed stating the maximum load. Where pallets are used; they should be loaded to an established pattern to achieve maximum stability and safety; the load should be uniformly distributed over the pallet; pallets should be inspected each time before use to ensure that they are safe to use and damaged pallets should be repaired or destroyed.

A Health & Safety or insurance inspector will expect to see; suitable and sufficient racking systems in good repair; pallets in good repair; items stored safely and securely; appropriate equipment readily available to reach in high level storage; staff training in manual handling; regular inspection records; installation certificate; signage; hazardous substances clearly identified and stored in appropriate containers and in a safe manner.

Pressure Systems

Pressure systems & equipment include boilers and steam heating systems, compressed air systems, air receivers, pipework, hoses, pressure gauges and level indicators.

The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR) deal with the safe operation of pressure systems and equipment. The regulations place duties on employers and self-employed persons to ensure that the system / equipment is safe to use and used correctly.

In order to comply with PSSR, it is essential to ensure that; before using any pressure system / equipment a written scheme of examination (WSE) must be in place and an examination undertaken by a competent person, examinations must be carried out in accordance with the WSE and records kept; systems / equipment are properly maintained and are not operated beyond the date specified in the current examination report; the system / equipment is used and operated within safe limits; adequate training and instruction on the use of the system / equipment is provided. This should include the manufacturer’s operating manual.

A Health & Safety or insurance inspector will expect to see; a written scheme of examination for the pressure systems / equipment on the premises, records of the above examinations; training records for persons using the system / equipment; instructions on what to do in an emergency. Further recommendations can be found on the HSE website.

Penny Hydraulics Ltd is a UK manufacturer of industrial mechanical handling equipment. The company design, manufacture, install and service a wide range of goods lifts suitable for warehouse and storage environments including mezzanine floor goods lifts for lifting single pallets to a mezzanine floor and loading bay lifts, to mechanically move goods up to 2 metres in height in loading bays.

In-house design and manufacturing capabilities allow quick and easy production of custom designed and built goods lifts in the case of specialist requirements.

Penny Hydraulics UK goods lift customer base ranges from high street retailers including Arcadia Group and Boots, to tyre suppliers such as ATS Euromaster and breweries and pub chains including JD Wethersoon, Young’s and Fullers.

A nationwide network of UK specialist goods lift service engineers allows Penny Hydraulics to provide maintenance programmes which allow companies to achieve full compliance with European legislation. A choice of extremely cost-effective service packages which include Thorough Examination and testing ensure reliable service throughout the life of your investment.

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