What injuries can occur from incorrect moving and handling?

29th November 2019 by Eve Johnson


In this article

  • What is a workplace injury?

  • What are the most common types of workplace injury and how do they occur?

  • Musculoskeletal disorders

  • How do musculoskeletal injuries occur?

  • What are the symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder?

  • Superficial injuries

  • How do superficial injuries occur?

  • What are the symptoms of a superficial injury?

  • Mental health issues

  • Who is at risk of sustaining an injury from incorrect moving and handling?

  • What factors increase the risk of workplace moving and handling injuries occurring?

  • Environmental factors

  • Resources

  • Individual

  • Ways to prevent risks occurring in the workplace

  • Posture

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Test your knowledge on moving and handling safety knowledge


Moving and handling can cause serious injuries to people. An estimated 581,000 workers were reported to have sustained an injury in the workplace during 2018/19 according to the Labour Force Survey – with industries such as agriculture, construction and wholesale coming out on top as the highest risk for workplace injuries. So, understanding the dangers of your workplace environment has never been so important – but, how in the know are you?

There is no getting away from the fact that moving and handling plays a part in almost every role, in every industry, making the risk of a workplace injury high if you’re not up to speed with the best practice techniques. But if you work in an industry that relies heavily on moving and handling, whether that be manually or using moving and handling equipment – the risks are much greater.

So, whether your role involves a lot of lifting and carrying, or you’re looking to improve your basic knowledge of health and safety in the workplace, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re looking at some of the most common workplace injuries, how they occur – and what you can do to prevent injuries and reduce risks in the workplace.

What is a workplace injury?

A workplace injury can cover a number of things, including physical injury or illness and is a direct result of the work environment. This can be an injury or illness caused, contributed or significantly aggravated by events or exposures in the workplace environment.

Whilst some industries pose a higher risk than others, it is possible to sustain a workplace injury in any occupational role.

What are the most common types of workplace injury and how do they occur?

There are a wide variety of illnesses and injuries that can come as a result of the work environment, and these may differ vastly from one industry to another.


However, a 2018/19 RIDDOR report showed that 20% of all non-fatal workplace injuries came as a result of handling, lifting and carrying, making this the second highest cause of work injuries after slips, trips and falls (accounting for 29% of injuries). With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at three of the most common injuries caused as a result of moving and handling.


Musculoskeletal disorders


Musculoskeletal disorders are by far the most common injuries to occur as a result of the workplace and are mostly associated with the construction industry where manual handling is part of everyday life.

Musculoskeletal disorders can encompass a range of injuries, and can include muscles, joints and tendons in any part of the body. This type of injury is most often associated with long-term damage, and often has a huge impact on not only the work life, but also the personal life of the sufferer.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 498,000 workers suffering from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (either new or long-standing) in 2018/19, with 203,000 of these suffering with upper limb or neck injuries, 40% suffering from back problems and 19% with lower limb injuries.


How do musculoskeletal injuries occur?


Unlike more superficial and short-term workplace injuries, musculoskeletal disorders usually occur as a result of repetitive movements over a long period of time. It doesn’t always necessarily occur as a result of heavy trauma either, as the HSE state that manual handling, lifting and repetitive keyboard typing are the prime causative factors behind work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Musculoskeletal disorders can occur from gradual wear and tear, repetitive movements or sudden movements, including some of the following:


  • Twisting.

  • Awkward movements that occur regularly over a long period of time.

  • Lifting heavy items regularly.

  • Lifting an item that is too heavy.

  • Bending down regularly.

  • Sitting or standing with bad posture.

  • Stretching to reach high areas.

  • Working in a cramped environment.

  • Working on unstable or uneven flooring.


What are the symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder?

There are a number of symptoms that come as a result of a musculoskeletal disorder which can be incredibly debilitating – including:

  • Pain in the affected area.

  • Minimal mobility or range of movement.

  • Widespread pain.

  • Dull aches.

  • Swelling.

  • Tightness in muscles.

  • Stiffness.

  • Numbness or tingling.

  • Disturbed sleep.

  • Burning muscles.

  • Muscle spasms.

  • Muscle fatigue.


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Superficial injuries

Superficial or short-term injuries encompass a wide range of things, including cuts and lacerations, sprains, tears, small fractures and muscle strains. Superficial injuries are amongst the most common type of work place injury, and if you work in a high-risk environment, the chances are you’re even more exposed to these potential injuries.

How do superficial injuries occur?

Short-term and/or superficial injuries can be caused by a range of things, and are most commonly associated with sudden, unexpected movements. Here are some of the most common causes of superficial injuries:

  • Dropping a load.

  • Suddenly losing grip of a load.

  • Lifting excessive amounts of weight.

  • Falling whilst carrying a load.

  • Tripping whilst carrying a load.

  • Awkward movements whilst lift or carrying.

  • Unsafe or incorrect use of a handling equipment.

What are the symptoms of a superficial injury?

The symptoms of short-term or superficial injuries really depends on the type of injury sustained. However, below are some of the most common types of symptoms relating to superficial injuries through manual handling: