Academic journal article Australian Health Review

The Impact of Manual Handling Training on Work Place Injuries: A 14 Year Audit

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

The Impact of Manual Handling Training on Work Place Injuries: A 14 Year Audit

Article excerpt


Manual handling injuries represented both the highest costs and largest proportion of workers compensation claims for the South Australian Department of Human Services from 1995 to 1999 (Risk Management Services 2000). There is evidence to suggest the manutention method of manual handling training can reduce workplace injuries. A retrospective audit of injuries was conducted at Metropolitan Domiciliary Care Southern Region, a community health service agency, to determine the effects of introducing the manutention method of manual handling to the agency. The workers most likely to sustain a manual handling injury were paramedical aides. For this workgroup, the incidence and severity of injuries were significantly reduced for the period following the introduction of the manutention method of manual handling training.


Manual handling injuries (also known as body stressing injuries) have been defined in Australia as muscular stress occurring as a result of moving or lifting objects. They include muscular stress occurring without any object being handled (National Occupational Health and Safety Commission 1999). In South Australia the Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act (1986) provides the legislative framework for ensuring worker safety. Employers must control risks by redesigning a hazardous task where reasonably practicable, and providing appropriate training, including safe manual handling techniques (Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Regulations (1995).

Manual handling injury claims represented the highest costs and greatest proportion of worker injury claims in South Australia (SA) between 1995 to 1999 (Risk Management Services 2000). Within the SA Department of Human Services (DHS), these injuries exceeded 1000 per annum and accounted for almost half the number of claims made by health units. Information obtained from WorkCover (a South Australian Government corporation responsible for injury management throughout the state) indicates that the top 10% of manual handling claims were responsible for around 80% of all injury costs.

Nurses and care workers are the most likely occupations to suffer body stressing injuries within SA health units of DHS. The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF SA Branch 1997) cites that in 1995-96, manual handling injuries sustained by nurses or employed carers in SA cost over $11.3 million (average $22,257 per injury). According to WorkCover, indirect costs are estimated to be 5-8 times greater. Risk Management Services at DHS indicated that the cause of injury was most frequently the manual handling of other people, and that manual handling training appeared to have a positive effect on incidence and claims figures (Risk Management Services 2000). They recommended that the "minimum lift policy' in place at many DHS hospitals needed to be supported by set procedures, education programs and 'forward thinking' lifting techniques.

The 'No Lift, No Injury' approach to manual handling was introduced in hospitals and residential care facilities in SA in June 2000. A Victorian project reported significant reductions in manual handling claims amongst nursing staff following the adoption of the 'No lift' policy (DHS Vie, 2002). Nursing and convalescent homes in SA reported significantly fewer injuries related to lifting residents since 1998 (Work Cover 2000). However, injuries related to other 'handling' or moving of residents have remained high. Silverstein, Rockefeller et al (2003) reported that the widespread adoption of 'zero lift' in Washington State nursing homes had reduced trunk stresses but increased shoulder loads in care workers and nursing staff. Use of equipment such as hoists requires a set of manual handling skills to position slings and move the hoist safely.

Community based care is growing throughout Australia as consumers and governments embrace the notion of older people continuing to live in their own homes (AIHW 2002). …

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