Manual Handling Risk Assessment

Case Study for Borough Council

On the 7th January 2019 Osteopathic Solutions Director Gareth Milner (pictured at the Waste Services Depot to the left) carried out a Manual Handling Risk & Ergonomic Assessment for Waste Services Employees of a South East based Borough Council. When carrying out a Manual Handling Risk Assessment for a Council, Gareth’s task on site is to assess the various manual handling tasks carried out by operatives at the depot and in the community, taking significant video footage and task notes which would form the basis of his Manual Handling Risk Reduction report featuring realistic and achievable risk reduction solutions to result in a safer working environment for employees.

Osteopathic Solutions (through Gareth Milner) had previously provided our 3 Day Manual Handling Instructor (Train the Trainer) Assessor Course for the same Council in May 2011 training a group of 10 Manual Handling Instructors (Trainers) and Risk Assessors. In September 2013, Osteopathic Solutions (through Gareth again) followed our initial 3 Day Course with our 1 Day Manual Handling Instructor (Train the Trainer) Assessor CPD/ Refresher Course. Please download the Course Outlines & Learning Outcomes for our onsite Course accredited with City & Guilds from the PDFs to the right.

Wheelie Bin & Food Bin Collections

Gareth arrived at the depot at 6.30am and began by observing the Wheelie Bin and Food Bin Collection Operatives. There were 3 sizes of wheelie bins; 180 litres, 240 litres and 360 litres (which the operatives described as ‘too heavy’). The pulling tasks included pulling bins across roads during rush hour; distances of up to 40 metres; pulling up and down hills and across gradients including paths and grass verges (slippery, damp and dark conditions). It was common place amongst these three operatives to pull 2 wheelie bins to the rear of the dustcart whilst at the same time carrying 2 food caddies. These operatives mentioned that ‘in their (Health & Safety) training’ that they were told to handle only 1 wheelie bin and 1 food caddy at the same time, but that they had to handle 2 wheelie bins and 2 food caddies at the same time to

‘get the job done’, avoiding the need to have more employees, and more rounds. On the consultancy day the bins were consistently full and overfilled by residents due to the Christmas holiday period.

A Waste Services Operative’s job, make no mistake, is a very physical job which involves significant strain on the musculoskeletal system even when good manual handling practices are performed. However it is a higher risk role for manual handling related injuries when operatives perform individual practices like shown in the video below left (available shortly). The operative when pulling the bins from the lifting mechanism grips the first bin with the right arm, starts walking and then has to reach backwards with the left arm to grab the other bin. Although the bins are empty, this causes unnecessary strain through the shoulder and neck.

As shown in the video above right, the operative lowers the empty food caddie with a forward bend and twist whilst at the same time pulling the bin back into place. The left shoulder is in a very awkward biomechanical position, under unnecessary strain. Safer practice for the musculoskeletal system would simply be to pull the wheelie bin into place and then lower the food caddie, avoiding twisting when lowering. This road was less strenuous for the operatives as the road was narrow, decreasing the pulling distances, with no grass verges, and with many drop down curbs.

Forward bending, although a natural lifting position, is hazardous for the lower back as the relatively small lower back muscles are being recruited in an overstretched (and biomechanically weaker) position, to lift what can be a heavy load. With commonplace (amongst Refuse & Recycling operatives nationally, both Council and external companies) practices of pulling; and pushing and pulling 2 wheelie bins at a time; slamming wheelie bins into curbs; lifting with the back in forward bent, and forward bent and twisted postures; throwing refuse bags with one arm, commonly repetitively the same arm; tipping food caddies with one arm, commonly repetitively the same arm; carrying 2 food caddies at the same time, musculoskeletal disorders will occur with resulting manual handling lost time accidents and possible injury at work claims. Even with risk reduction solutions in place and practised, this role will cause musculoskeletal disorders. The human body is not an unbreakable machine.

The following are some of the most likely musculoskeletal disorders from this task:

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Neck disc herniation (pictured in the MRI scan to the right - blue arrow points to the C4/C5 disc herniation. There is also a herniation above at C3/C4).

  • Joint ligament sprains and osteoarthritis

  • Shoulder muscle strains and tears

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lower back disc herniation and prolapsed

  • Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow

  • Wrist tendonitis and ligament sprains

Some of the risk reduction solutions recommended by Gareth were:

  • Task specific Manual Handling Training

  • Pulling one bin at a time, whilst carrying 1 food caddie

  • Separation of bin and caddie collection, with smaller vehicles used only for caddie collection

  • Avoidance of slamming wheelie bins into curbs i.e. performing safer practice taught in Manual Handing Training

  • Avoidance of pulling bins across grass when possible. With reference to pulling 2 bins, also avoiding pulling 1 on the path and 1 on the grass at the same time i.e. pulling both on the path when possible

  • Grip both bins before moving to pull

  • Pushing single bins with both arms

  • Squat lifting and lowering of a single food caddie. Avoiding forward bending, and forward bending and twisting practices to lift and lower food caddies

  • Throwing refuse bags with both arms

  • Tipping food caddies using both arms

  • Effective inspection and maintenance programme for wheelie bin wheels

  • Provision of neoprene wrist supports and enforcement of use

Commercial Bin (Eurobin) Collections

The first collection observed involved a single commercial bin that was 2 person pushed and pulled no more than 6-7 metres (shown in the video to the right). The operative who was pulling the bin whilst walking backwards had to push open a metal door with his left arm whilst pulling the bin with his right hand. When the bin is locked onto the vehicle lifting mechanism both operatives have to lean towards the vehicle to lock the bin onto the lifting mechanism. This involved a spinal side bend using the lower back muscles. These operatives performed hazardous pushing and pulling practices including a lack of communication and coordination when team pushing and pulling; and forward bending pushing the bin back into its position using bodyweight and the weaker upper body muscles.

The 2nd collection observed involved team handling the commercial bin out of a gutter area and then up an incline around 10 metres with a push and pull. The pull involved gripping the bin handle with one arm using bodyweight to pull the bin in a forward bent and side bent left spinal position. The other operative was pushing. There appeared to be no communication in the initiation of the bin movement (the push and pull). As shown in the video (to the left) the operative wearing the winter hat was putting in more physical effort than his colleague. The 2nd bin was then team pulled to the vehicle around 5 metres up an incline. The operatives did assess the load weight by checking the inside contents. Initially the bin was team pulled using bodyweight, leaning in a spinal forward bend and side bend, which is

a position of strain for the spine when pulling a heavy load. The empty bin was then returned, again turning it whilst it was moving.

The transfer of the next bin at this location was very awkward as it had to be moved over broken concrete and a raise in the concrete. The distance moved over the broken concrete was 4-5 metres and the remaining transfer over smooth concrete was a further 4-5 metres. There was no manual handling communication. Again the operative (with the winter hat on) was putting more physical effort in than his colleague who was more passive in his physical effort (throughout the time observed). Gareth observed that there was some space to store the bin that would have removed the need to handle it across the broken concrete and over the raise. Enforcement of storage of the bin here with the clients would need to be enforced (if possible). 

The following are some of the most likely musculoskeletal disorders from this task:

 

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Disc herniation (in the neck)

  • Shoulder joint ligament sprains and osteoarthritis

  • Shoulder muscle strains, tendonitis and tears

  • Forearm muscle tendonitis, including Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow (right image)

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lower back disc herniation and prolapse

 

Some of the risk reduction solutions recommended by Gareth were:

  • Task specific Manual Handling Training

  • On the job Manual Handling Training/ Coaching

  • More team pushing contacting one of the bin sides

  • Avoid team pulling when possible

  • Avoid turning bins whilst at the same time transferring the bin

  • Coordinated team handling with clear communication

  • Alternation of the side of the bin that pushing to lock on lifting mechanism i.e. using different arms 

  • Effective inspection and maintenance programme for commercial bin wheels

  • Provision of neoprene wrist supports and enforcement of use

Sack Collections

Manual handling tasks included lifting single refuse bags out of bins, carrying bags considerable distances from the bins to the vehicle and throwing bags into the back of the dustcart. The operative shown in the video (to the left) is lifting single bags from the bin in a forward bent spinal position using the same arm (the right arm) for each lift. He then lifts 3 of the bags together in a forward bent position using his lower back muscles to lift. He then forward bends to put them down on the ground. He then lifts 4 bags which are obviously heavy and carries them around 25-30 metres across paths and grass verges, down steps, to throw the bags into the dustcart. The same operative insisted the bags weren’t heavy when asked if it was too heavy. This sort of attitude with lack of thought (and possibly education – 

maybe the effects of hazardous manual handling practices haven’t been taught to this employee) about his physical capabilities will lead to a severe musculoskeletal injury, especially a prolapsed lower lumbar disc with high levels of lower back pain (and leg pain called sciatica) and disability for an indefinite period in his life.

The following are some of the likely musculoskeletal disorders from the task:

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Cervical disc herniation

  • Acromio-clavicular joint ligament sprains and osteoarthritis (right image)

  • Shoulder muscle strains, tendonitis and tears

  • Forearm muscle tendonitis, including Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lumbar disc herniation and prolapsed

  • Knee ligament sprains and osteoarthritis

 

Some of the risk reduction solutions recommended by Gareth were:

  • Task specific Manual Handling Training at their workplace

  • On the job Manual Handling Training/ Coaching

  • Education (kept simple) on the effects of hazardous manual handling practices within a classroom environment

  • Bags stored in wheelie bins & not refuse bins

  • Working at a pace that is in line with safe manual handling practices

Bulky Collections

Bulky collections involve a 2 man team collecting items including washing machines, sofas and other heavy and awkward household items. On the consultancy day, a single 2 man team was observed with 2 separate collections that both involved large sofas. 1 of the team members was in his late 50s and the other was in his early 60s; ages that will involve wear and tear (osteoarthritis) to the musculoskeletal system, especially to the neck, lower back and the knees. The large sofa (without cushions) was lifted from the resident’s driveway and carried a short distance of 4 metres to behind the collection vehicle. The task was a 2 person lift, carry and lower. No verbal communication to coordinate the 2 person lift was performed. As shown in video (to the left) the operative in

his early 60s performs minimal knee bending (possibly due to single or bilateral knee osteoarthritis) lifting with his lower back muscles in a forward bent spinal position. The other operative lifts in a ‘BackSafe’ full-squat position, which is more powerful than lifting with the back, as the legs are used to lift the load. This is evident during the lift as the operative in his early 60s is slower to get the load up into the carrying position. However even though the other operative lifts with squat, the load is clearly awkward and heavy for him. The sofa is team carried 4 metres to the back of the collection vehicle. The operative walking forwards has to extend his neck slightly to monitor the space behind his colleague. The operative walking backwards has an enforced twist of this neck to the left to safely carry the sofa and check the position of the collection vehicle. The operative walking forwards carries the sofa supporting its full width. The operative walking backwards has his hands closer together (not supporting the sofa’s full width) which would lead to the load not being 100% stable during the carry, placing more strain on the operatives’ upper extremity muscles, necks and lower backs. The sofa then had to be lifted to their head height in order to throw the sofa into the vehicle.

The following are the most likely musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Cervical disc herniation

  • Shoulder Rotator Cuff muscle strains, tendonitis and tears (right image)

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lumbar disc herniation and prolapsed

 

Some of the risk reduction solutions recommended by Gareth were:

 

  • Task specific Manual Handling Training at the Depot

  • On the job Manual Handling Training/ Coaching

  • Improved 2 person (on the job and not documented) task, load and environment manual handling assessment (in line with the guidelines written in the HSE’s Manual Handling Checklists within the Manual Handling Operations Regulations)

  • Best practice team lifting, carrying and lowering communication and handling coordination

  • Best practice team lifting, carrying and lowering technique and practice

  • Lumbar support provision for employees with pre-existing or past lower back injury

  • Supply of safety shoes that provide good shock absorbance

Wheelie Bin Deliveries

The task (shown in the top video to the right) involves pulling 10 stacked, new 140 litre wheelie bins with both arms, left arm on the bottom bin and right arm on the 8th stacked bin, a short distance of 1 metre and then lowering them and finally dropping them to the ground. The lowering of the stack involves holding the considerable load weight away from the body as they are falling, placing significant mechanical strain on the shoulders, neck and lower back. The final part involves letting go of the bins to drop them on the floor as shown in the video. Individual bins are then pulled out in a forward bent spinal posture, twisting the back and pulling with the left arm with the shoulder in a flexed and abducted movement. The operative said the task ‘strains his chest’ as the bins were ‘tight’ as they had settled into the bin below and strong physical pulling force was needed to take individual bins out. The remaining stacked bins were then lifted and pushed back into the locked storage area. Each wheelie bin then had the wheels fixed on them. This task involved a lot of unavoidable, fixed forward bending of the spine. The operative informed Gareth that he will make around 30 bins up in one go, which took him an hour. Much of this hour is spent in a forward bent position. However the operative did perform habits that were hazardous and avoidable. As shown in the bottom video to the right he unnecessarily slams down the bin to feel if the small metal pole was inside the bin. This would have caused shock through the arms with the force absorbed by his neck (which he described he got pain from).

The following are the most likely musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Cervical disc herniation

  • Shoulder muscle strains, tendonitis and tears

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lumbar disc herniation (right images) and prolapsed

 

Risk Reduction Solutions:

  • Task specific Manual Handling Training at the Depot

  • On the job Manual Handling Training/ Coaching

  • Storage of bins in lower stacks; 5 high instead of 10 high. Is this possible with the manufacturer?

  • Manufacturer to lightly grease outer of the wheelie bin to make pulling out bins physically easier

  • Job rotation. More operatives performing this job role. The operative was the only employee ‘serving the whole Borough’ with deliveries of new bins and 2nd hand bins

  • Individual operatives to alternate the top arm when lowering and dropping the stacked bins.

  • Lifting of stacked 360 litre bins a 2 person task

  • Provision of a lumbar support www.performancehealth.com/rolyan-neoprene-lumbar-support and provision of training on postural awareness

Cleaning out the back of a Dustcart

This task is performed 1-2 times per week. The task involves:

  • Lowering the ladder on the side of the dustcart

  • Unlocking the side door with keys

  • Climbing up the ladder and entering the vehicle through the very small side opening

  • A shovel and a broom are used to shovel waste out of the vehicle through the small side opening. When the shovel load is emptied onto the ground the operative is holding a heavy shovel load away from his body in a forward bent, side bent right and twisted right spinal position

  • Climbing up the ladder and entering the vehicle through the very small side opening

  • A shovel and a broom are used to shovel waste out of the vehicle through the small side opening (shown in the video above left). When the shovel load is emptied onto the ground the operative is holding a heavy shovel load away from his body in a forward bent, side bent right and twisted right spinal position

Employee Information/ Comments

  • The inside vehicle working environment contains urine bags (which can explode), dog and human faeces, cooking oil etc.

  • It’s like an ice skating rink from the cooking oil with broken glass and half bottles

  • The PPE they supply us with is insufficient

  • There is no procedure in place for employees being observed to prevent death from fatal wounds from broken glass and half bottles

The following are the most likely musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Cervical disc herniation

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lumbar disc herniation and prolapsed

  • Shoulder muscles strains

  • Ankle ligament sprains (image to the right details an inversion movement sprain)

The following is the most likely risk reduction solutions

  • Contracting external suppliers to clean

  • Job rotation

  • Supply of a lumbar support

  • Supply of PPE more fit for purpose (especially to prevent glass/ needles piercing)

  • Team of 2 working at a single time – monitoring colleague safety

Frame Installations

This was observed by Gareth at the depot and not in the community environment where they are installed, with coverage of the task in the video below. The specific frequency of the task was not given but the operatives informed me that a frame could be in place in the community for a 6 month period. The 3 ft x 2 ft slabs weigh 100kg each, with 3 handled for each frame. The metal frame weighs approximately 25kg (employee informed) which holds 3 wheelie bins for recycling. At the depot the slabs are shuffled along the ground as shown in the video (to the left), by one operative. This involves a forward bent spinal posture, especially the neck bending forward, and strenuous grip and use of the arms whilst shuffling the slab to the delivery vehicle.

When onsite in the community, a 2 man lift and lower of the very heavy slab is performed. This load weight is three times the HSE guidelines for load weight regarding a 2 person lift, however this is not a 3 person load due to the small load width. The slab is then lowered in a team of 3 operatives using a shovel into position in the base of the frame; a high risk manual handling task involving a likely forward bent position supporting a very heavy load. This is repeated 3 times for each frame installation. For removing the slab from the frame a 2 person team lift is performed, three times per frame. In all the team handling seen, communication was poor which led to poor coordination of the lift.

The following are the most likely musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Neck muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Cervical disc herniation

  • Lower back muscle strains and ligament sprains

  • Lumbar disc herniation and prolapse

Risk Reduction Solutions:

  • Task specific Manual Handling Training at the Depot focusing on best practice team lifting, carrying and lowering

  • On the job Manual Handling Training/ Coaching

  • Supply of premade frames from manufacturers

  • Supply of a hoist at the depot to lift slabs onto the vehicle

Fridge Freezer Team Lift.jpg
20140530_093920.jpg
20140530_092117.jpg
20180517_115328.jpg
Osteopathic Solutions Ltd

T:  0845 299 3513

E:  handling@osteopathicsolutions.co.uk

Company Registration Number: 07743200

VAT Registration Number: 139 388572

CPD Certification Service Member Number: 12602

  • LinkedIn - Grey Circle
  • YouTube - Grey Circle
  • Instagram - Grey Circle
  • Facebook - Grey Circle