Heavy lifting is a necessary part of many moving and handling jobs, but in situations where access is limited and heavy items need to be safely maneuvered, the health and safety implications for employees need to be taken into account. While no one individual job may cause an employee an injury, it is likely that regularly dealing with large loads will lead to health problems over time.

In recent years, a renewed focus on health and safety in manual handling sectors might have raised eyebrows and caused a flutter of comments about molly coddling by the state, but the reality is that for people handling heavy goods day in, day out, health and safety is an absolutely vital part of ensuring their later years are not spent dealing with a myriad of avoidable health issues, or that their working life is cut short due to injury.

There are a number of ways in which heavy lifting can be approached in a way that reduces the chance of injury, whether immediate or over time. As well as assessing the environment that the removal is taking place in – is it well lit, what is the access like etc – people in handling roles should be considering whether or not it might be more effective, and safer, to use lifting and handling equipment. In situations where using equipment like electric stair climbers might not be possible, there are a few easily remembered techniques which ensure manual lifting is done safely and with as little risk to health as possible. As well as the obvious health considerations, it is important to bear in mind the safety and protection of any items being moved.

Current Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines give advice on manual lifting as well as lifting using specialised equipment, but urge that regardless of which a load falls under, employees take into consideration individual capacity, the nature of the load and what it is, the conditions in the environment (for instance is the staircase an external one, and is it raining?), what training they have undertaken, and work organisation.

When it comes to manual lifting, HSE reminds to check the route for any obstructions, and to plan a halfway “resting” point for particularly long lifts. This can allow the carrier to change their grip and ensure any exertion on the body is as balanced as possible.

For those using lifting equipment to carry heavy loads up stairs, it is important not to forget to assess the likelihood of injury before reaching the staircase itself. Does the heavy item need unloading from a van, for example? How far is the carrying distance from the vehicle to the staircase?

As a general rule, health and safety guidelines dictate that maximum lifting limits for men are around 25kg, and 16kg for women. These limits drop to 10kg and 7kg respectively when we are talking about lifting items above shoulder height (stocking items on shelves, for example) and further still when we consider if items need to be held away from the body (5kg for men and 3kg for women).

These guidelines are perhaps not particularly useful as gender isn’t an indication of strength and there are different levels of strength within genders anyway, but as an arbitrary outline it can be useful to bear in mind and give people knowledge about when weight becomes something to be considered.

By combining solutions such as powered stair climbers and other pieces of handling equipment with a knowledge of good health and safety practice, and an all-important dollop of common sense, employers can help their employees to avoid injury, and handlers themselves can empower themselves to make the right decisions when working with heavy goods.

There are few pieces of equipment which are easy to operate, can be used on straight and spiral staircases, and also can easily deal with items weighing up to 400kg, but the Cargomaster powered Stairclimber ticks all these boxes. As well as this, the Cargomaster can be transported in standard sized cars, and charged on the go. It also boasts a key safety feature in a mechanical brake, which means it can only be used if the user has actively taken the brake off, helping to avoid any serious accidents.

Materials handling specialists Parrs are Cargomaster’s UK partner, and for them stocking the range is part of a focus on adding automated products of the same quality as existing Parrs brands such as Expresso.