3 Steps to Success – The Pristine Approach

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) remain one of the most frequent types of work-related injury across most industry sectors.

Yet, despite efforts to reduce this through legislation and better risk management, it can rarely be eliminated.

Even when the risk is significantly reduced, if an item has to be moved manually, a residual risk remains.

So why are MSDs still so prevalent? Quite simply, conventional methods of addressing that residual risk aren’t effective.

Pristine Condition Ltd has enjoyed unprecedented success at bucking that trend, showing clients how to reduce manual handling injuries and then sustain those results, by addressing the key causes of initiative failure. Here, its founder, Davy Snowdon, explains how organisations can get it right.

“Reducing handling injuries is quite simply about changing people’s habits; exchanging a bad one for a good one, which itself has three drivers:

  • •Individuals’ buy-in to the change
  • •Monitoring take-up of the change
  • •Management support to maintain the change

The harsh reality is that initiatives fail when any of those three is deficient.

When it comes to manual handling training though, conventional wisdom overlooks one simple fact; 

The body doesn’t tell you every time you get it wrong, only when you’ve got it wrong too often – when it’s too late.

Consider that statement in the context of what is probably the most extreme manual handling tasks you’ll come across; Olympic Weightlifting.

Injury is a huge fear for any athlete and weightlifters are no exception, yet even when they fail a lift, they don’t get injured. Why?

Olympic Weightlifting has evolved, with athletes striving for anatomical technical perfection, minimising the pressure they place on their body. Result? Even though they’re moving weights far beyond so-called “safe” guidelines, weightlifters are rarely injured trying.

It shows that avoiding injury is not primarily about weight, but about technique.

Conversely, conventional manual handling training is too generic, using unrealistic scenarios of lifting empty cardboard boxes from perfectly flat floors onto precisely positioned, waist-high tables.

Your employees’ workplace isn’t like that, so don’t be surprised when they don’t buy into that message.

Faced with patronising techniques which don’t work in their real world, employees quickly revert to old habits.

Worse still, they emotionally disengage from the whole process, so their belief now is “you can’t do it like that where I work”, which then goes unchallenged.

To get employee buy-in, you need to deliver practical training, using lifting principles that every individual will buy into because they genuinely believe it reduces their chances of being injured. Those principles need to be easy to follow and applicable to any handling scenario.

Crucially though, training needs to be delivered in an engaging way, so it’s remembered positively. For example, is “Death by PowerPoint” really promoting the audience’s engagement?

Only by embracing those two key elements, will your training stand a chance of succeeding;

Realistic principles, delivered in an engaging way.

Once this base level is attained, it needs to be sustained.

Challenging poor behaviour rarely happens for manual handling. Why? Consider this.

Walk into most warehouses without High Visibility PPE and you’ll quickly be challenged by someone off the shop floor about your behaviour.

Why? Because the company has made it abundantly clear what is right and what is wrong. Staff understand the difference and with that understanding comes the confidence to challenge.

But with poor handling technique, supervisors are less confident about what actually is right, even if they instinctively know something is wrong.

That’s because they don’t have the knowledge to correct poor technique, nor then, the confidence to challenge that behaviour.

Result? Poor behaviour prevails.

So not only do you need to train the workforce, you also need to train front line managers how to spot and rectify incorrect technique.

Simplicity is the watchword again here – as simple as spotting a PPE violation.

Your Lifting Principles not only need to be simple, they also need to be binary; either right or wrong, with no grey areas and you need an auditing mechanism which deals with both.

The trick though is giving the supervisor the skills to deal with either scenario effectively. Get this part right and you’ll see some amazing results because the training is now being properly sustained through effective supervisory auditing.

Combine that with an easy mechanism for recoding the audit’s findings and you’ve got the beginnings of quite a sophisticated management tool that shows where more effort can pay dividends, improving results even further.

Then check those findings with your own observations and take a healthily sceptical view on any that claim 100% compliance!

Side box 1

Key failings in Industry:

  • Lack of knowledge, information and awareness of MSD risks.
  • Conflicting guidance on what is and is not correct technique.
  • So people do what they feel is best or copy colleagues, whose technique may be flawed.
  • Incorrect technique leads to increased and accumulative pressure on the body.
  • The body won’t tell you when you lift incorrectly, until it’s too late.
  • Front line managers don’t challenge incorrect technique because they can’t explain what correct looks like.

Side box 2

Key Failings with conventional manual handling advice and instructions:

  • Use the correct technique” Which is?
  • Use technique as per your training” Are you really in the business of lifting empty boxes?
  • Bend your legs and keep your back straight” The spine is naturally curved, what does straight mean?
  • Generic training that bears no resemblance to the tasks individuals actually undertake
  • Watch the video, sign the book, off you go, sorted…….…Fill in the Accident Book

Finally, support managers to maintain momentum and deal with the scenarios you hadn’t planned for.

There will always be new ways of doing things, new plant and new processes, new equipment and new tools, so your handling techniques need to adapt to that change.

Think about how you’ll address the things that aren’t an issue today but might be tomorrow, how you’ll stay abreast of latest technological best practice affecting your industry, accident trends and their avoidance, the civil scene and what’s happening with personal injury claims trends.

Think about how to keep the programme’s momentum going and look for ways that you can redeliver similar messages differently, so people remain energised by it.

Refresher training is a given, but think more creatively about how that’s going to be done without it becoming just another boring “elf n safety” refresher.

Don’t just focus on the emotional negatives of failure either, like accident statistics. Celebrate the positives, such asthe results which good auditing will undoubtedly deliver when done properly, especially when it’s reinforcing good behaviors.

Make sure you can evidence that positive progress is happening and then share that positivity with everyone, because, let’s face it, people like to be associated with something that’s successful.

But if someone does get injured, make sure you include reference to their anatomical technique in the Investigation. Be prepared to challenge inconsistencies and only ever record facts, not presumptions or opinions.

To conclude, in Pristine Condition’s experience, there are 3 fundamentals to guaranteeing any training programme’s success in changing habits.

Organisations which consistently satisfy all three see significant reductions in their manual handling risk profile, in their manual handling accidents and in the total cost to the business from those accidents.

For more information on why Pristine Conditions approach has been so successful, visit: www.pristinecondition.com or call Pristine Condition Ltd on +44 (0)1491 414464

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