HSE: Don't Use Off-the-Shelf Ergonomics Training

"If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customized and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce," HSE Health and Work Portfolio Manager Geoff Cox said.

Off-the-shelf manual handling training should become a thing of the past, England's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said in new musculoskeletal disorder advice posted March 21. The guidance for employers was created to help them decide what type of help they need to tackle MSD risks in their workplaces by illustrating different approaches and listing professional organizations that can assist.

The advice was developed with the input and involvement of businesses, trade unions, trade bodies, training providers, professional organizations, safety professionals, and consultants.

HSE Health and Work Portfolio Manager Geoff Cox introduced it at the agency's inaugural MSD Summit on March 21. "Our research shows that simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money, it just doesn't make any difference," he said. "The overall aim is to avoid and reduce manual handling, and that's where employers should start if their workforce faces manual handling risks. Don't start with training, start with re-organizing and redesigning your working practices."

"If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customized and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce," Cox added.

Organizations involved in developing the guidance included EEF, Unite the Union, ROSPA, IOSH, and BSIF. Terry Woolmer, head of Health and Safety Policy at EEF, said the advice "won't tell you how to resolve your MSD issues, but it will help you decide what types of approaches suit your business and where to get the help you need."

Susan Murray, national health and safety advisor for Unite the Union, said, "The key point from the web-based advice is the importance of involving workers in all aspects dealing with manual handling solutions. The people who do the work often come up with the best answers."

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