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Manual Handling Training

Manual Handling Training for Street Cleansing Employees at the Earlswood Depot in May 2014

To download the Street Cleansing 2 Hour 100% Practical Skills Course Outline and Learning Outcomes please click the PDF below. The 2 Hour Courses at the Earlswood Depot for Reigate & Banstead Borough Council included 25 minutes classroom coverage.

The 2 Hour Practical Skills courses started in the classroom with an introduction by our trainer Paul Henaghan. Basic spinal anatomy was briefly covered using an imitation spine, and a lifting demonstration model to enhance the understanding of how unsafe lifting practice can damage the back and how much extra force is put onto the back when lifting with unsafe practice. The group then briefly mentioned what their current injuries were so Paul knew for the practical.

Paul presented our unsafe practice videos from factories, warehouses and councils to the attendees to engage them to see how unsafe practice happens in all types of industries. The attendees were asked during the videos how the employer could resolve the issues concerning the task, load and environment.

After 25 minutes in the classroom it was time to move onto the practical around the depot. Members of the Street Cleansing team explained certain issues they had when it comes to manual handling and Paul then used loads at the depot to make it realistic for them.

Before the start of the practical training the group performed 10 semi squats, getting lower each time. This was to allow the body to warm up and also focus them to use their leg muscles. This is something rarely done in real life but is essential before performing manual handling tasks. The first part of the practical was a full squat lift, carry and full squat lower with a small fridge weighing around 15kg, lifting it off a pallet then carrying it around 10 metres. Paul firstly showed how to perform safe lifting practice and linked this with the classroom theory about the 5 key ‘BackSafe‘ principles.

Paul then let the members of staff ask questions, with each member of staff demonstrating the same lift, carry and lower. If there was incorrect technique shown, Paul made sure this was corrected by requesting the employee to have another attempt. One of the most common mistakes was that employees were not getting close enough to the load keeping their feet too narrow. This enforces the spine into a forward bend which increases the strain on the neck and lower back.

          An employee asked about throwing onto the refuse truck as the black sacks can be heavy with the contents commonly moving around. Paul firstly commented that throwing generally involves a twist. Paul then observed how they normally throw onto the truck and recommended that throwing should be alternated between throwing with a right to left and left to right twist. Some of the employees were throwing with a combined forward bend (shown in the video below right taken whilst following the team on the job) which Paul informed them could lead to spinal disc injuries. The female employee in the video throwing the bag onto the vehicle had a long history of back pain and this avoidable forward bend coupled with the (unavoidable) twist would be a factor behind her back pain. Paul then demonstrated throwing with a reduced twist which would minimise the cumulative strain to the musculoskeletal system.

The next part of the training involved pushing and pulling. At the depot a wheelie bin was used. This was covered minimally as the street cleansing team at Reigate & Banstead performed minimal pushing and pulling within their roles. After everyone understood the practical principles of pushing and pulling the course moved onto team handling. Paul explained that the 5 key principles of single person lifting and lowering still applied to team lifting and lowering. Teaching good communication the team leader used '' Ready, Brace, Lift '' (commonly used by the Fire Services) to coordinate the lift. The freezer at the depot weighed around 35kg and if one of the team failed to time the lift correctly this could have easily injured their back. The group were split up into pairs with each pair being guided through lifting, and then lowering the freezer onto the Council truck. The pairs then moved the freezer back off the truck and onto the ground. The video below left shows a team lift, carry and lower of the freezer onto the truck. This was their 1st practice of this task during the training. The employee on the left has her feet too narrow as they should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Due to the bulk of the freezer and its awkward shape, the spine is enforced into a side bend to the right. Widening the stance would reduce the amount of side bend. The employee on the right had an ankle that had in the past been fractured and positioning his feet in an ideal squat position was uncomfortable for his ankle. Due to muscle stiffness in the right calf muscle, his right heel came off the ground. Not ideal technique as his feet should be level, slightly wider than shoulder width apart keeping the heels on the ground, but as shown on the video this is what his (previously fractured) ankle was allowing him to do. Paul makes reference to their application as '' excellent '' where he is referring to the coordination of the lift, carry and lower.

The video above right shows a team lower of the freezer from the truck to the ground. With very heavy loads we recommend not to use the words '' Ready, Brace (or Steady) '' with the recommendation to get the load down quickly timing the squat with the team leader saying '' Lower '' or '' Down '' (as practiced on this video).

The freezer was a very awkward load which did not have any easy places to grip. It made the group understand that perfect 'BackSafe' technique cannot always be performed as some tasks enforce an unsafe spinal posture. Some manual handling training providers preach that perfect technique can be performed all the time. This approach would not be realistic for these individuals and would disengage them, reducing the effectiveness of the training.

After this was completed Paul asked the group if they had any questions; and then a final reminder about the 5 'BackSafe' principles of lifting, lowering, pushing and pulling:


- Keep the load close

- Face square onto the load

- Bend through the hips and knees

- Use the powerful leg muscles

- Maintain your spinal S-shape

Osteopathic Solutions Ltd

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