10 critical elements for successful manual handling training

Written by Terry Wong


There are lots of approaches to Manual handling training (MHT) – but not many great results are being achieved. If you are looking to achieve more than a ‘tick the box’ initiative, measure your initiative against these 10 critical elements:

  1. Management support
    This means more than signing an invoice to pay for it. Serious support would ideally include people in key leadership roles actually participating and getting involved in the training... and publicising it. No excuses! Consider running management only sessions if you think that would work well.
    Do you have visible management support?
  2. Part of a risk management approach
    The right MHT can be a valuable intervention as part of an overall risk management approach to safety. However, it is just one component. Employees need to see that support is in place to eliminate manual handling risks as well as provide training to help handle those risks better.
    Is your MHT integrated within a risk management strategy?
  3. Focuses on behaviour rather than just techniques
    Most manual handling injuries are underpinned by behaviour components. That is, people making the wrong (commonly labelled ‘stupid’) decisions that result in injury. Rarely does it have anything to do with whether or not they know the right manual handling technique.
    Does your manual handling training address the behavioural component of manual handling injuries?
  4. Demonstrates benefits for work and life
    Human beings are 24 hour creatures. If there are habits we want to encourage, they must be applicable to both work and life. People bring their home-life aches, sprains and strains to work – and they will develop into injuries. Your manual handling training must be as relevant to the weekend gardening or chosen sporting pursuit as it is to specific work tasks.
    Does your training provide benefits for people’s lives outside of work?
  5. Practical, practical, practical
    Manual handling is all about people moving – either themselves or things. Training should also be about moving. Forget the short physics lesson, the doldrums of a PowerPoint presentation or the need to take copious notes. Manual handling training should be about getting people up and experiencing movement options. Apply the 80:20 rule.
    Is your training at least 80% activity-based?
  6. Visible 12 months of the year
    If your manual handling problem is as bad as most companies in Australia, your solution is certainly going to need to be bigger than a once every 12-18 month training initiative. Your MHT must be supported with a plan – ideally be part of a systemic response. This may include having workplace Champions, in-house trainers for program delivery, supporting materials in the workplace, pre-start routines that support the learning, regular toolbox talks or themed safety months.
    Do you have strategies in place to support your MHT?
  7. Produce a return on investment
    All training must deliver results. MHT is often a sizable investment and there must be clear expectations on what you want it to achieve. This may be a reduction in injuries or incidents, a reduction in the severity of injuries or even an increase in productivity. Whatever it is, measure before, during and after!
    Does your MHT produce a return on investment?
  8. Entertaining, engaging, memorable
    In today’s information age we are used to being entertained and engaged to absorb information. Your MHT should be no different. The key messages must be memorable enough for employees to be talking about it long after the training session.
    Are your employees talking about your MHT in a positive light?
  9. Offer the latest techniques
    The techniques taught in MHT are often not questioned, which is the reason why people are being taught techniques that date back to the 1950’s. If your training refers to phrases like “bend the knees”, “keep the back straight” it is outdated and likely to be causing more harm than good.
    Are you positive your MHT offers the latest techniques?
  10. Critical mass
    If your MHT is ticking all the boxes so far, then you are likely to be on a winner. In this situation, you are likely to get the greatest impact when you have the most number of people trained in the shortest period of time. Although there is some logistical sense in rolling out a program over a protracted period of time, you are more likely to get meaningful change from an initial ‘shock and awe’ approach followed by a long-term sustainable plan.
    Are you getting the most impact from your implementation plan?

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We like to think Move 4 Life ticks all of these boxes, and more. If you are looking for a comprehensive response to sprain and strain injuries, get in touch.

About the Author

Terry Wong

Terry Wong

Terry Wong is General Manager of Move 4 Life, the benchmark in preventing sprain and strain injuries and future-proofing an ageing workforce. Move 4 Life helps companies send employees home to their families safely each day.

A Physiotherapist by-trade, Terry has spent the last 14 years in workplace rehabilitation, occupational health, injury-prevention and training. He has held a position as Chair of the Occupational Health Group of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and is widely published on these subjects.

You can find Terry’s LinkedIn profile here.

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