5 Ways to Guarantee a Return on your Manual Handling Training

Written by Terry Wong


Most businesses have a love-hate relationship with Manual Handling Training (MHT).

You know you have to do it .... but quite often it becomes one of those ‘boring’ safety programs that employees loathe and fails to deliver on its promises to miraculously change the way people work.

A summary of most people’s experiences?

If you are interested in getting the most out of your MHT, achieve a meaningful return on your investment ... or just want to implement a program that is useful, effective and embraced by employees, here are big ticket items ...

#1 It can’t be the only trick up your sleeve

tricks up sleeve 400x226Too often, MHT is still seen as the primary weapon used to combat manual handling sprains and strains. Not only is it a lower order administrative control option ... but it has to be really good to have any meaningful effect. And by really good, I mean a training session that has employees walking away with practical things that they can apply to their work, a sense that the company has added-value by providing use beyond work ... and an employee response that has them coming up to you saying things like “that was much better than I thought it was ... or ... wish I had learnt that 20 years ago ... or ... I’ve been to every manual handling course over the last 30 years and I actually learnt heaps from that session”.

Does your MHT have that affect?

So what else do you need to have in place apart from MHT?

Other weapons in your arsenal that will increase the rate of return of your MHT...

#2 It needs to address the behavioural elements

grumpy child 400x320Teaching techniques and expecting employees to absorb and comply does not create change.
A person’s manual handling techniques (that is, how someone moves and interacts with their environment) is strongly behavioural. Movements that are learnt over time, highly habitual and influenced by their environment (physical and cultural).

Positively influencing employee manual handling techniques is similar to the many issues companies face when introducing new PPE.

To effectively address behavioural elements, your MHT should:

It’s a classic adult learning methodology and it can lead to long-term sustainable change.

#3 It needs to teach up-to-date techniques

BKKBS create injuryIf your MHT teaches “Bend your knees, keep your back straight” then it’s time to update.

Quick tip ... this technique has been shown scientifically to be unstable, not allow efficient use of the muscles you are supposed to use (your legs) and accelerates the wear and tear on the knees.

Many MHT programs are still teaching outdated techniques using the same old rhetoric that has been used for the last 40 years.

To ensure your MHT is up-to-date, the content should:

BTW – stay away from Manual Handling DVDs … most are still using out-of-date techniques and, even if they were up to date, people do not change their behaviour because they watch a video. Of course, they do allow you to tick the compliance box if that is the primary objective … although there is no benefit for your employees there.

#4 It needs a sustainable system built-in

gearsMHT commonly falls into the “Launch and Leave” category of workplace programs. That is ... all the attention and fanfare in the world gets focussed on launching a program ... only to be “left” to its own devices. This most often result is an underperforming strategy that does not provide any meaningful return on investment.

Behavioural based programs need to nurtured ... supported ... invested in. Don’t expect a miraculous return without a sustainability system built in. Echoing the words of a popular shampoo advertisement: “it won’t happen overnight ... but it will happen” provided you drip feed information to keep it top of mind amongst employees.

At Move 4 Life we talk about sustainability in 2 phases. After the successful launch of the initial training phase (where you get employees to buy into you message and approach), we provide employees an opportunity to be lead and coached – either by their MOVE trainer or in-house “MOVE Champions”. For our program this also incorporates the implementation of a movement routine that can be done (in or out of work time) DAILY to accelerate the behaviour change element.

Secondly, you MHT needs to be integrated into your existing business systems. Ideas for this include:

#5 It needs to entertain (and ideally capture hearts and minds)

businessman clown 200x300In today’s fast-paced, information-rich world it’s taken for granted that any successful training initiative will need to be entertaining. It’s a key component of capturing hearts and minds.
Why then does MHT have a reputation of being boring or at worst, an opportunity to catch a quick 40 winks?

The reason is plain and simple... that’s exactly what most people’s experience has been! Dry, uninspiring material, dominated by too much theory and not enough practice, delivered by people who don’t have the ability to capture the attention of participants, delivering techniques that are not only unrealistic, but could be potentially causing them harm!

Question is ... how do you ensure this happens?

1. It needs to entertain

2. It needs to cater to all 3 learning styles

3. Use stories to convey your messages

4. Tips and techniques should apply to work, home and play

5. Key messages need to be ‘sticky’

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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