A guide to manual lifting in agriculture

Most agricultural businesses avoid manual handling of loads wherever possible. It is frequently difficult, potentially dangerous, and several machines can do the job faster and more efficiently.

However, there may be times where manual handling is necessary, in which case, extra care is called for. Here is a quick guide to manual lifting, how to decide when it is needed, and best practices to ensure the safety of your workers.

What is manual lifting?

Simply put, it involves lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling or setting down a load by hand or through other physical forces.

Manual lifting calls for the repetitive use of force in terms of how the load is gripped, how far it is carried, how high it is lifted and how often it needs to be lifted and set down within a specific time frame.

Inefficiencies in these, combined with the actual weight, shape and size of the load itself, can potentially cause injury. It is imperative to maintain proper form and control when doing the manual lifting, particularly with repetitive movements.

Many workers who lift incorrectly end up with musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, hernias, slipped discs, strains and sprains, arthritis and swelling in the upper body.

These require intense treatment and long recovery times, and some may even put the workers out of commission for good. This is why it is best to leave lifting activities to machinery as far as possible.

Ways to avoid manual lifting

As far as possible, try to keep your agricultural business free of manual handling. There are several alternatives you can consider, including:

  • Using mechanised systems to lift, carry and tip smaller containers.
  • Fully mechanising the process, which is the only option in the case of large bales or bags.
  • Using feed handling equipment with distribution pipes and bulk storage bins eliminates the need to handle feed manually.

Assessing the manual lifting task for reduction

If specific tasks truly require manual intervention, carefully assess the nature of the job, the type of load and the worker’s capacity. HSE has a Manual Handling Assessment Chart that lets you identify risky tasks, including:

  • Weights that need to be carried over long distances and/or require frequent picking up and setting down
  • Weights that require the worker to twist or lift above shoulder height or from the floor
  • Weights that are over 25 kg, or are bulkily shaped or otherwise inconvenient to carry

Once you have identified these tasks, there are several ways to reduce the effort for your worker, including:

  • Using mechanised aids to lift loads
  • Finding more efficient ways to handle the load
  • Changing to lighter or smaller units, such as individual feed bags under 25 kg
  • Using mechanised aids to carry loads over distances to reduce the need to keep lifting them

Best practices to lift safely

Wherever manual tasks are called for, you must train your workers in proper lifting techniques and ensure a safe working environment for them. Here are some pointers that every manual lifter should keep in mind:

  • If the load needs to be repositioned, the worker should set it down first and then adjust it.
  • They should adopt a stable position with feet apart and one foot slightly in front of the other.
  • The load should be as close as possible to the waist while lifting, with the heaviest part of the load next to the body.
  • Prior to lifting, they should assess how heavy the load will be, whether they need any help and whether there are any handling aids they can use.
  • The worker should avoid leaning sideways or twisting the back, especially while the back is bent. Turning, if necessary, should be done by moving the feet.
  • It is generally safer to hug the load rather than gripping it in the hands.
  • Fully flexing the back or fully squatting to pick up a load is not recommended. Instead, the worker should bend the back, hips and knees slightly right at the start of the lift.
  • The back should not be flexed further while lifting (which may happen if the legs start to straighten before beginning to lift).
  • The shoulders should be kept level and face in the same direction as the hips.
  • The head should be kept up, and the worker should look ahead while handling the load.
  • All movements should be smooth — no jerking or snatching.
  • By no means should anybody lift or handle weight beyond what they are safely capable of managing.

Move away from manual lifting

Absolutely! Bid farewell to awkward and heavy manual lifting, and say hello to convenient, safe and automated lifting solutions. Why push your workers to undertake great physical pains to lift and transport heavy loads of feed or waste or bales in one go.

Thankfully, we are the official distributor in the UK, Ireland and Europe for Simpro Handling Equipment Ltd, a New Zealand-based bin lifting equipment manufacturer.

You can choose machines that best suit your agricultural business. Check out the Simpro catalogue on our website or call us on 01442 503929 for a quick consult. Speak soon!

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