In many work sectors including midwifery back injuries are the biggest cause of absence from the work place and many could be avoided if employers followed their obligations and took precautions.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations provide workers with protection for the "transporting, supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force" and recent case law includes that of a midwife suffering injury through lifting of a patient.
There are no specified weight requirements in order to win a case under the regulations.
The employer’s primary responsibility is to avoid the need to carry out a manual handling operation where there is a risk of injury and consider whether it is practical to avopid manual movement of the load at all.
If manual movement can’t be avoided a risk assessment must be performed which involves looking at:
• The load itself in terms of size, weight etc
• The employee in terms of size, age, medical status, clothing, footwear, knowledge
• The posture required to move the load
• The location of the load and where it has to be moved to
• The environmental circumstance e.g. lighting, heating etc
In considering the above the employer should then decide the best (safest) way of performing the task e.g. it may require additional workers, more accessible storage and details of the load (weight, size etc).
However, the simple message of the regulations is – be careful, be sensible, don’t take risks.