42,000 suffering MSDs prompts widespread site inspections


Site inspections to curb the risks from manual handling will start next week. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will carry out checks from Monday 4 September through to October, focusing on how workers are moving and handling materials. 

It is part of a wider campaign to raise awareness of the risks in moving heavy or bulky objects by hand. 

Legally, employers must control the risks of ill health to their workers, including muscle, bone, joint and nerve pain that can develop over time, known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). 

Risks should be considered and prevented at the design stage, with correct training, aids and equipment provided.  

Recent examples of poor practice, which resulted in enforcement action from the HSE, include a worker lifting an 80 kg kerb on his own, and a 110 kg floor saw moved in and out of a van by two people.  

Mechanical equipment to handle large glazing panes, airbags to position heavy doors, and pallet trucks and brick-lifters are some recommended methods to move materials. 

Around 42,000 construction workers suffer with MSDs, which can cause agonising aches and pains. 

This amounts to 53 per cent of all ill health in the sector. 

“It is important that the issue of manual handling is not downplayed,” said Matt Birtles, principal ergonomist at HSE. “Serious aches, pains and strains should not be accepted as routine when working in construction. These can dramatically affect every part of someone’s life – with sufferers struggling to get themselves dressed and undressed, and unable to pick up their children or grandchildren. 

“The culture of a site may mean many people feel uncomfortable talking about these issues but if your back has gone or if you’re in agony whenever you move your arms, measures need to be put in place to address the causes.” 

HSE acting head of construction division, Mike Thomas, added: “Everyone involved in construction has a role to play in keeping people safe and healthy. We want everyone in the industry, from designers to contractors and their workers, to be aware of the risks associated with any moving or lifting task and put appropriate measures in place.”  

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