One of the main problems with manual handling training is not in the quality of the training, but the fact that people simply don’t follow the message that is being delivered. And this is important, because even after we have set up our workplace to be as “ergonomic” as possible, there will still likely be manual handing risk. The question begs then…how can we encourage this behavioural change in our workers? One of the major concepts from behavioural safety approaches is that people need to want to change their behaviour. There needs to be a reason for them to do so. The problem is that the reason will be different for different workers. Following this thinking through, running out a manual handling training program that is the same no matter which group you are delivering it to will not necessarily work.
The first step will be to understand the workers we are delivering our training to. How old are they? What are their priorities in life? Do they care more about what they do work, or what they do away from work? These are the types of questions that we need to know the answers to before we start our manual handling training.
So let’s have a look at some typical workers and see if we can work out what types of things will motivate them to change the way they use their body when performing manual tasks:

Young and Bullet-Proof
I’m sure we have all met this type of worker before. Many of us probably were this person, or still are! This type of person feels young, strong and able to perform any manual tasks in the workplace without risk of injury. In some ways doing things the “safe way” is construed as a sign of weakness for these types of workers. I find that this type of group responds well to promoting the concept of them as an industrial athlete. If they were to go and work out at the gym they would need to keep good “form” to make sure that they protect the body from injury. Work is just the same. Also it is useful to focus on the things that they do away from work, as the work that they are doing is often not what they consider to be their dream job. They may be into sport, girls, boys or any combination of the above. An injury at work will have a big impact on what they do outside of work. The last thing I talk about with this type of group is that injury prevention is not all about strength. Many injuries such as disk injuries to the lower back, or tendon injuries to the shoulder are completely unrelated to how strong the person is, it more to do with the positions that they choose to adopt when performing tasks.

Older worker
This type of worker has been about for a while and understands the risk inherent in their job. The reasons they do not follow safe manual handling may be that they do not believe it, feel it is too hard or they do not have the time. I think deep down they also get that good technique can reduce injury but it has become too much of a challenge for them. They have likely formed some bad habits along the way and these are hard to change. From a motivational point of view I like to point out some of the injuries that may be received from work. It is likely that some in the group will have had just such an injury, but almost certain that they will know someone who has. This is about them getting to the end of their work career and retiring active, able and comfortable. It is also useful for this group to get them to monitor each other. They may actually want to do the right thing, but have formed bad habits and do not realise that they are moving in a way that creates risk.

More to come….