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There are many components of a successful manual handling programme. One successful outcome is people having safe movement habits when performing physical activities - be it work or out of work.

As outlined in last month’s feature - one of the vital components to creating a habit is deliberate practice.

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Habit formation is fascinating and research is active in attempting to determine how long it takes to create a habit.


The original understanding was it took 21 days to create a habit. This originated in 1960 where a plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz noticed it took patients a minimum of about 21 days to get used to their new faces and this was incorrectly extrapolated to the common misconception and mantra – ‘it takes 21 days to create a habit’.


In 2009 Researchers from University College of London found it takes 66 days of daily practice on a specific habit or skill to reach a point they call automaticity. The automaticity point means you reach a level where it is easier to do the new ritual than not to.
Other studies yield different time frames.
However, a couple of key points experts do agree on are:

  • You need to consistently repeat the behaviour (in the physical space we call this practice) The general consensus is about 2 months of daily practice.

  • It is easy to forget - we need support to remind us. Suggestions might be team support, toolbox meetings, safety conversations, SOP’s etc...

  • Form a trigger - a trigger is a ritual – so it might be practising for 1 minute after every ‘work break’ or for 1 minute at the start of each new picking order.


Has your business been guilty of implementing manual handling training and then expecting an automatic positive effect? Unfortunately, when it comes to changing habits you can’t fight the facts. Change takes time and consistent input.


However, the rewards are worth the effort.


Imagine having a physically intelligent workforce that automatically used their bodies effectively when pushing, pulling, lifting, twisting, bending and all those activities that commonly cause injuries?