Manual Handling Training is Broken

June 23, 2018

Chances are if you’ve started a new job with a big employer recently you’ve gone to Manual Handling training, or WorkSafe training. Chances are it was total crap.

Work related back pain is a huge problem. A lot of back pain occurs when lifting. To solve work related back pain we will make sure people keep their back stiff and straight when they lift, lift only light loads, or avoid it all together. Logical, right? But it’s totally wrong.

Let me give you an example.

I’m a raging alcoholic with who sits all day watching Archer and eats KFC 3 times a day. I bite a carrot and get sudden tooth pain. Solution = stop eating vegetables.

Ceasing the consumption of vegetables would quite logically remove the risk of cracking teeth on carrots yes? Actually, no.

Vegetables are good for you, they are good for the health and vitality of the tissues in your body. Eating more carrots would actually make it less likely that next time you ate a carrot something bad happening to your teeth. What about the fact that I am pretty unhealthy in general, that was the first vegetable i’d seen for ages and other aspects of my life actually make my teeth less healthy?

No, no, no it happened when I bit the carrot!!!

See what I did there?

Back pain happens with lifting but as to why is a complex interplay of individual factors that are way more complex than we completely understand. But, like carrots, lifting stuff is good for you. You are built to do it. If you lift more, more regularly, you are capable of more. The point where your back gets sore goes further away.

Like teeth, your back is very strong. But much stronger and quite capable of bending, moving under load regularly and dealing with large forces. Think of a gymnast, or a pro surfer. They bend all the time, fast and hard.

Teaching people to “brace” and work on “core stability” has led to millions of people walking around thinking that they will fall apart when they bend. Guess what – you are going to bend. You are meant to. But if you have all this crap in your head about it being bad for you, your nervous system will flip out and respond. With? Pain.

If you want to lift 200kg, then brace away. Bend your knees and all that stuff. But if you are picking up a box of toilet paper – DO WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT.

Manual Handling training is broken, not people. We have removed people from moving under load and increased their risk of back pain.

We need all new employees to be given an exercise, diet and lifestyle audit and then provided with education and an exercise program that encourages regular movement, work under resistance and gradually progresses.

Be safe at work. But be smart and strong too.

Until next time