In a recent article from the British Safety Council, they were asked the question of an employer who noted that an external H&S consultant had reviewed their manual handling operations and suggested that the employer should be labelling the containers being handled with the weight of the load. They wanted to know if this was correct?
Manual handling operations through lifting, carrying and lowering of loads, etc can cause a variety of musculoskeletal disorders and in particular injury, damage or disorder of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back.
Under Regulation 4 of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, employers are required to take appropriate steps to provide any of those employees who are undertaking any such manual handling operations with general indicators and where it is reasonably practicable to do so, precise information on the weight of each load and the heaviest side of any load whose centre of gravity is not positioned centrally.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document L23, guidance to the regulations, notes that the regulations requires the employer to provide such information where it is reasonably practicable to do so.
The HSE website then notes that “providing information about load weights can be useful but should not be the only step you take to comply with the regulations” and that “the risk control measures which are likely to be most effective in eliminating or reducing risk” should be given priority.
In respect of the general indication on weight, L23 suggests that provision of such information should form part of any job induction or basic training, so that employees have sufficient information to carry out the operations they are likely to be asked to do. This can then also be included in any training undertaken in relation to manual handling.
The HSE states that if it is reasonably practicable to give precise information this should be done but “does not necessary require you to quote weights to anything more than the nearest kilogram or two”.
The HSE further states that information should be put where it will be seen and is easy to understand. Marking the weight on the load itself can be a good way to give precise information, but is not a legal requirement.
Other methods of giving the information can be used such as a verbal reminder, a wall poster or a pocket card.
If it is not reasonably practicable to give precise information it is sufficient for the employer to provide general indications about weight (and heaviest sides, if applicable) of the typical kinds of loads to be handled in a job.