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HSE issues Black Friday safety guidance to prevent upsurge in MSDs

20 November 2018

Black Friday is a great day for business but don’t let it come at the expense of your workers’ health, cautions Michael Paton, policy lead for musculoskeletal disorders at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Customers across the UK and beyond are bracing themselves for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping events of the year. Research from last year shows as many as 225 million parcels were in transit due to Black Friday sales and up to £1.4 billion was spent on goods. 

Clearly, this is a busy time in the retail calendar but what about the impact on workers? Staff across Britain are expected to work longer hours to cope with demand – whether that’s those in shops dealing with customers, warehouse staff lifting and moving heavy parcels or delivery drivers on the road for hours on end. To understand the scale of this, it’s worth mentioning some of the UK’s biggest brands including Amazon, Argos and Royal Mail have stated that courier firms hire 52% more lorries and vans to cope with Black Friday logistics. 

While excitement builds for customers gearing up to spend their hard-earned cash, the demand this creates on workers can have negative impacts on their health – longer hours in busier and more high pressure environments. This then leaves us with two questions – just what is the impact of Black Friday on workers’ health and what can be done to manage this? 

Great for bargains, not so great for worker health

It’s no secret that Black Friday, and the run up to Christmas, is a busy time for workers. As the workplace health and safety regulator for the transport and logistics sector, this industry is one HSE is particularly concerned about at this time of year. 

Pain and injury to backs, joints and limbs (musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs) are a big issue within the industry with our latest statistics, published only weeks ago, estimating a staggering 26,000 workers are currently suffering a work-related MSD and 417,000 working days are lost on average each year.

Work-related MSDs are linked to repetitive and / or heavy lifting, bending and twisting, repeating an action too frequently, uncomfortable working position, or working too long without a break. The primary work activity of a delivery driver involves long periods of sitting and being inactive, so it should come as no surprise that MSDs are an issue that come along with this line of work.

So, what can the transport and logistics industry do to manage the risk of MSDs? 

At HSE, preventing work-related ill health is of the utmost importance to us. We firmly believe that no worker’s health should be affected or made worse by the work they do which is the reason why we launched our Go Home Healthy campaign. We believe every worker should leave their place of work healthy and well, regardless of the industry they work in.

As part of this campaign, we have compiled our top 10 tips for employers to help ensure workers in the transport and logistics sector stay healthy and well over the busy Black Friday period:

  1. Involve your workers in planning for this busy period to make sure contingency plans do not increase risks to workers’ health and safety.
  2. Ensure workers load their vehicles to match delivery routes to reduce the amount of unnecessary lifting and moving.
  3. Provide lifting aids and trollies for deliveries and train and encourage workers to use them. This can help reduce the risk of personal injury.
  4. If workers must lift, make sure they are familiar with and apply the safe lifting and carrying principles to reduce potential for strains and sprains.
  5. Encourage workers to get help and handle heavy items with care. This can help reduce the risk of serious personal injury. Take care with awkward sizes, shapes and supporting heavy loads which can present increased risks.
  6. Encourage workers to do warm-up exercises and anti-fatigue stretches - these can reduce the chance of personal injury when making deliveries.
  7. Allow workers the opportunity to have rest periods to reduce fatigue and maintain concentration.
  8. Provide new and / or temporary workers with induction training and ongoing support tailored to what they will be handling.
  9. Encourage workers to speak up if they are beginning to struggle or feel under pressure to meet delivery deadlines. Listen to your workers and take appropriate action to address their needs and provide support.
  10. Meeting deadlines is important for the business but make sure that this is done safely. Lead by example to give workers the right messages and help promote a safe and healthier place to work.

Christmas is looming so Black Friday is really only the start of what typically is a very busy time for the transport and logistics industry but by following our top 10 tips to prevent work-related MSDs, workers will be able to go home healthy to their families and enjoy the festive period.

For more information on the Go Home Healthy campaign visit: https://bit.ly/2Fs9kuJ, follow us on Twitter @Go_Home_Healthy, on Facebook GoHomeHealthy, and join the conversation at #WorkRight

 
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