It is perhaps a surprise that the single most common cause for taking time off work is back pain. More than a third of back injuries are the result of an accident in the workplace involve incorrect procedures for heavy lifting. Some people expect to do a certain amount of lifting and carrying at work and are suitably trained. Many, however, only lift things once in a while and are not as aware of proper procedures. Every single one of your employees should be offered manual handling training.
Sedentary workers like secretaries are particularly good candidates for suffering a back injury at work. Untrained in correct manual handling techniques, they will often think nothing of carrying a tray heavily laden with coffee and sandwiches or trying to move a filing cabinet. These people are a ticking lawsuit time bomb. Content to mostly sit at their desk working at the computer or speaking on the telephone, maybe once a week they will decide to be a hero or get a bit of exercise by doing something strenuous.
Don't forget the security guard or company receptionist. He or she may sit at the front desk all day greeting visitors and fielding telephone calls. However, depending on your company's procedures for dealing with deliveries, this is the person who has to shift those heavy and unsightly boxes of goods where they are less noticeable and less likely to be tripped over. Never underestimate the heaviness of a carton of photocopy paper.
Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff rarely get through their working day without having to help colleagues lift a patient or two. If this goes horribly wrong, not only is the staff member vulnerable to injury, but so is the patient. Not the best way to provide them with a pleasant hospital experience.
Training programs in manual lifting techniques should begin with a discussion of local and state legislation about health and safety in the workplace. The course should also cover the general principles of correct lifting procedures and an outline of risk factors for injuries and how they occur. Make sure to include material for the sedentary workers, who may not feel the course applies to them.
Use diagrams to explain the anatomy and physiology of the spine. Talk about the hazards of bad posture, and how nearly all of us use it at some point. A model of the human skeleton is always a good talking point and makes it easier for the participants to understand the material.
Break the tedium of participants having to just sit and listen to the instructor by introducing a video tutorial. Encourage the class to ask questions and talk about their own experiences. This helps to emphasize the overall message.
Finally, discuss your company's procedures for returning back to work after a manual handling injury. While offering your staff manual handling training goes a long way toward preventing accidents, by itself it may not be sufficient. Ensure that staff update their training regularly and have relevant posters on the walls throughout the workplace.