There are many contributors to strain and sprain injuries. The aim of manual handling training is to influence how people move and establish safe movement habits – reducing strain related injuries.
For manual handling training to be effective it has to help people change unsafe habits. This is not a quick fix process. It requires specific training techniques and support from management.
These are the 3 essential training elements needed to change unsafe movement habits in the workplace.
1. Understanding - the right knowledge
To start the learning process, participants need the correct knowledge. (Refer to Box 1 in illustration)
For example, they need to understand:
How to move with balance when they are bending and reaching
To breathe out for power when they are doing heavy work
How to use their hands and shoulders when pushing to protect their body and increase strength
How to use their hands correctly when gripping knives and tools
Without the correct information, there is no basis for safe movement.
2. Learning by feeling, doing and comparing
Meeting the objectives of changing people’s movement habits isn’t as easy as just imparting the correct information.
The process of how the knowledge is presented is vital. This needs to be done in a way that enables participant's to feel the difference between a safe movement habit and an unsafe movement habit. (Refer to Box 2 in illustration).
How does it feel on their body when they use their shoulders and hands to push in a way that gives them power and protects their back, neck and shoulders - compared to using them in a way that causes tension and makes them weaker?
How does it feel when they have a safe habit of breathing out when lifting something heavy - compared to the unsafe habit of holding their breath?
How does it feel for them when they use their hand correctly when gripping a pipette in a laboratory - compared to using their hand incorrectly?
Kinaesthetic based learning enables participants to listen to their body, recognise its early warning signs and make safe movement choices.
3. Embedding new habits with practice
Just knowing something is correct doesn’t make it a habit. If the safe habit isn’t practiced – people will go back to the existing unsafe habit.
To benefit from habit changing focused training, businesses must put processes in place to encourage practice - a vital step. (Refer to Box 3 in illustration)
Unless these 3 steps are followed and there’s an understanding of what it takes to create positive changes in your workers’ movement habits – there will be no long-lasting ROI on your manual handling training – and that’s a waste of time, money and energy!