Dan Casey, from hydraulic lifting equipment specialists Penny Hydraulics, outlines the steps you can take to reduce manual handling risks when making deliveries.

Any manual job can come with its safety risks, and shipping and logistics is no exception. For small parcels, the task can be an easy one, but larger items can cause some safety hazards when lifting and transporting. Picking up heavy parcels incorrectly can cause strain on your back, neck and knees, and the more parcels you deliver, the more long-term your injuries can become.

Last year, almost half of work-related illnesses in the UK’s transportation and storage industry were caused by musculoskeletal disorders, a large proportion of these disorders occurring in the post and courier sector. Thankfully, there are a few safety tips you can stick to minimise the manual handling hazards that you may find yourself at risk to.  

Adopt a more efficient van layout

When loading your van, try to place heavier items higher up. They should be between knee and elbow height — any higher and you could risk the load falling on your head. Placing heavier items at a higher level will make it easier to get a good grip on the parcel and it’ll take less energy and force to lift it.

Clear your path before lifting

Before you lift the parcel, you should make sure that the path from your van to the front door is kept clear to avoid tripping. When delivering items, it’s easy to have wrapping materials left over from previous deliveries lying around in the back of the vehicle, but this could cause a major safety risk if you were to trip — especially if you’re carrying a parcel that can limit your field of vision.

Practice safe lifting and carrying techniques

To reduce the risk of injury, you should have been fully trained in safe lifting and carrying techniques, but there is some general guidance you can follow. Before lifting anything, have a look around the outside of the parcel to see if there’s anywhere you can get a good grip of it. There may be handles on the sides of the item, or it may be easier to lift from the bottom. Particularly heavy loads may need to be lifted onto a higher surface to get a better grip.

Now comes the lifting. Spread your legs apart with one leg slightly further forward than the other to adopt a stable position. You may need to adjust your stance to keep your balance as you lift. Then, slowly lower yourself down, bending your knees and back slightly to reach the parcel. Try not to bend your back too much or adopt a squatting position, as this will cause too much strain on your spine, knees and surrounding muscles.

Hold the parcel close to your body to maintain a good grip and try to keep it as near to your waist as possible. Doing this will allow you to use the strength of your whole body to carry the item, rather than just relying on your arm strength alone.

It’s important that you know your limits and don’t try to lift something that is too heavy for you. If this is the case, you may need to adopt other strategies to transport the parcel.

Use the heavy lifting equipment available to you

Don’t try to lift something that is too heavy, especially if it is over 20kg. For these parcels, you may need help from another person, but you should also be provided with specialist heavy lifting equipment to unload it. When making deliveries in residential areas, the lack of space could make a traditional tail lift impractical, which means you should be provided with something more lightweight, like a hydraulic loading platform.

These can be fitted to the inside of the rear and side doors of your vehicle and, because they can be stowed vertically, won’t impact the capacity of your van. These platforms will lift the parcel directly from the outside of your van to the bed of the vehicle, eliminating the need to manually lift, push, or pull heavy parcels off the van. This means that the risk of injury associated with these tasks is reduced.

Once the items have been unloaded, it’s usually easier to push them to their destination, and you’ve most likely been provided with a parcel trolley or sack truck to take some of the load off. If you’re having to lift heavy loads upstairs, you should have the option to use a stair climbing sack truck, which will give you more control over the parcel and make it easier to transport the package up a difficult area. Try to park as close to your destination as possible to reduce the distance you’ll need to travel.

If you feel that you’ve not been given the correct equipment to help you do your job safely, you can raise the issue with your manager or union.

Take frequent breaks

When manually lifting parcels, it’s important that you take regular breaks to give your muscles time to rest. This is especially important if you’re doing repetitive lifting, as this can cause muscles to fatigue a lot quicker.

By following these few steps, you can help to reduce the risks associated with lifting parcels manually. This will reduce muscle strain and injury, reducing the likelihood of musculoskeletal related sickness as a result.

By Alison