Workplaces have changed dramatically over the millennia. But even in the 21st century, lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying heavy objects remains a fundamental job task in just about all industries and work settings.
Performing these tasks – typically referred to as “manual materials handling” – puts workers at risk of musculoskeletal disorders (aka, “MSDs”), or serious and painful injuries to the back, limbs, joints and muscles. This Program sets out a strategy you can implement over a 30-day period to prevent MSDs along with the insurance, OSHA, productivity, and other liabilities that can result. Before implementing this program, take time to review this compliance briefing covering OSHA’s rules for preventing MSDs. Anyone else helping you implement this program should review it as well.
The first step in controlling MSD hazards is to conduct a hazard assessment. While workers may get MSDs from job tasks that don’t involve handling heavy objects – like sitting at a poorly designed office workstation over a prolonged period – for purposes of this Program, the hazard assessment required should focus only on manual materials handling operations and the job tasks putting workers at risk of MSDs during these operations. Hazard assessment methods should include:
Use the following tools to identify hazards, review data, and survey workers:
Manual materials handling and ergonomics are closely related, so ergonomics-related hazards should be included in your assessment. The following site-specific ergonomic assessments can help:
As you identify hazards, consider the risk factors that determine whether a particular manual materials operation poses an MSD risk, including:
Once you’ve identified all hazards, evaluate the seriousness of each so you can make intelligent, economically viable and legally sound decisions about the measures necessary to control them. Your evaluation should rank hazards by:
The following tools can be used to evaluate and rank the hazards you’ve identified:
Now that you’ve identified all manual materials handling hazards, you must implement appropriate controls to manage the risks identified. Apply controls according to the following procedure:
If reasonably practicable, totally eliminate the hazard. For example, do not perform the manual materials handling operations that expose workers to MSD hazards.
Implement Engineering Controls
If elimination isn’t reasonably practicable, take measures to control the hazards. Start with engineering controls. OSHA expects employers to determine if mechanical devices such as forklifts, dollies, conveyors, and hand trucks can be used to move materials. Making workers handle materials by hand rather than using feasible mechanical devices can lead not only to MSDs but OSHA citations or concerns from your insurer. Simpler forms of engineering controls to consider include:
Implement Work/Administrative Controls
The next layer of hazard control is use of “work” or “administrative” controls. These affect how the work is actually carried out. Start by developing and implementing safe work procedures for lifting and carrying heavy objects. Other work controls may include:
Use these tools to create an MSD prevention policy and develop a lift team for heavy objects:
Use PPE & Other Protective Equipment
Last but not least, make sure workers who handle materials by hand have – and use – appropriate PPE and safety equipment for preventing MSD hazards, which may include:
Note that back belts have not proven effective in protecting workers against MSD hazards.
Implementation Tip: Although listed in order of recommended implementation, recognize that engineering, work and PPE controls are not mutually exclusive. In the real world, they often can and should be used in combination.
The next step is to train workers involved in manual materials handling operations so they understand MSD hazards they face and how to manage the risks. At a minimum, safety training should explain to workers:
Recall the lessons from Safety Training 101 if delivering any training meeting:
These things may seem minor, but done right, they’re proven to make training more effective.
You can deliver effective and legally compliant training using SafetySmart’s training kits & courses:
You can use SafetySmart’s streaming videos either during onsite training meetings or as part of an online training program. SafetySmart’s online training library includes over 90 streaming videos, any of which can be viewed or assigned; in addition, you can select additional titles from SafetySmart’s full library of over 600 titles to meet specific needs.
Also remember that simply providing training isn’t enough! You must ensure workers actually understand and are capable of applying their training on the job – that they are competent. Methods of verifying competency include:
eLearning courses can be useful to ensure competency, especially if you have workers spread across multiple sites or working remote, since competency is tested throughout an eLearning course. You can also use SafetySmart’s Hazard & Incident Manager across your organization to record observations of workers performing tasks and identify gaps to address with reinforcement training.
These quick tools can also be useful for onsite training:
Finally, if your organization faces any unique manual materials handling issues, you can tailor any of the material included in onsite meeting kits. Likewise, SafetySmart can work with you if tailoring is needed for any online training courses or streaming videos.
The final step of any Program is to monitor your controls to ensure they’re effective and determine whether adjustments or corrective actions are necessary. Monitoring must be carried out on an ongoing and continuous basis. Even though it’s scheduled for Day 21-30, the monitoring process should never end!
Monitoring should be carried out on a regular basis, e.g., as part of monthly work inspections and scheduled safety audits, and in response to indications that current measures may not be adequate. Such red flags would include:
You should also keep careful records documenting measures taken to assess and correct safety controls so you can prove you complied with OSHA requirements. The following tools make it easier to keep useful records:
You can also use SafetySmart’s Hazard & Incident Manager to thoroughly record and analyze observations, close calls, or recordable injury data.
Finally, solicit input on your entire program and act on it. Include employees and other members of your safety team. These evaluation templates can help:
MSDs have become the leading source of lost work-time injuries, accounting for more than 1 in 3 of such injuries in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Failing to protect workers from MSD risks can also get you into hot water with OSHA, especially if your workers perform manual materials handling operations. The good news: following the Program here will go a long way to prevent MSDs and unplanned liabilities!
Need more help? Call us anytime at 800-667-9300 or email your account manager to discuss how SafetySmart can be used to improve your manual materials handling program.