The manual task challenge in retail

The retail industry can be deeply entwined with manual tasks, be it unpacking deliveries, arranging displays, or moving stock. However, alongside these tasks exists the ever-present potential for injury. Recognising and managing these inherent risks is of paramount importance to retailers.

Current landscape of Injuries

According to Injury Hotspot data from authorities like WorkSafe Victoria, manual task-related injuries rank prominently. These injuries arise from various activities, such as lifting/handling items, manoeuvring equipment or trolleys, repetitive tasks, and adopting awkward postures. These findings are underscored by the volume of injury claims within retail trading sectors that interface with the public.

The misconception of Lifting Technique Training

Historically, many retail businesses have turned to lifting technique training sessions as their primary solution. This belief was rooted in the notion that proper techniques could eliminate or significantly reduce the risk of injury. However, guidance from regulators shows, this isn’t the case.

A revealing statement from WorkSafe QLD notes:

“There is strong evidence that teaching people how to lift, or using programs that include lifting techniques such as keeping a neutral spine and bending your knees or bracing your abdominals, are ineffective. Such methods waste both time and money.”

Modifying the Task

The hierarchy of controls pushes for the elimination of hazards. If eradication is not viable, the spotlight should then turn to task modification, reshaping the work environment, or introducing mechanical aids to minimise risks.

While it’s clear that lifting techniques may not be the solution, retailers must still ensure their teams are educated about potential risks and methods to mitigate them. This includes familiarising them with available mechanical aids, tools, and equipment.

The power of employee conversations

By actively engaging with the workforce about which tasks they deem strenuous or challenging, retailers can unearth invaluable insights. Workers often identify issues that may not be overtly visible to the management. They can also offer simple, budget-friendly solutions that might otherwise be overlooked.

Get the conversation started at work with some simple questions for your workers:

  • What are the tiring, painful, difficult tasks for you or others?
  • What would you suggest to reduce the risks of you or one of your co-workers being injured as a result of manual tasks?
  • What needs to change?

The material within this update is provided for general information and educational purposes in summary form on topics that are current when it is first published. The content does not constitute legal advice or recommendations and should not be relied upon as such.



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