The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently launched a revised guide to managing muscular skeletal disorders in checkout work.
The guide will be of particular relevance to any employees who work on checkouts, which are commonly found in supermarkets.
The leaflet is designed to help employers manage checkout work and reduce the risk of workers suffering from muscular skeletal disorders. It broadly sets out how health and safety law applies to this area of the work place.
Employers are under a legal duty to check that staff working on checkouts do not suffer any injuries from their job which could include damage to joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. In most cases such injuries occur from sitting or standing in the same position or being required to move heavy items regularly over a long period of time.
The symptoms may include pain but also discomfort, tingling, numbness, stiffness or swelling. The majority of these symptoms will eventually go if the employee rests but in some cases they may lead to more serious injuries and be permanent.
The updated guide assists employers in assessing the checkout work that there staff do and advises them on how to avoid the risk of injury. Employers are encouraged to seek the assistance of employees as to what their job entails and to spot work place risks.
The guide states that the risks in checkout work include manual handling, lifting of goods, awkward postures as well as seating and standing positions, static and cramped postures and work organisation factors.
Employers are encouraged to reduce the amount of twisting, stooping and reaching, avoid lifting from the floor and minimalize the distance that items have to be carried.
Employers are also required to consider the design of the checkout as sitting or standing for long periods without movement can affect muscles and lead to fatigue and pain through reduced blood circulation.
Employers are required to provide suitable adjustable seating and foot rests and to introduce regular breaks so that staff are not working in the same position for long periods.
Other simple requirements include making sure that there is enough room in the checkout to move and stretch and providing comfortable seats which can be adjusted.
It is interesting to note the updated guidelines as they show that employers are under a clear legal duty to monitor checkout work and ensure that it is done as safely as possible.
This includes carrying out regular health and safety checks and seeking the views of the staff who carry out the work.
However unfortunately situations arise where staff will still suffer injuries as a result of working on a checkout. This may not necessarily be a one off injury but could be caused by the slow build up of symptoms over time.
Any employee who works in this type of work and thinks that they have symptoms which may be attributable to their work should seek medical attention and consider whether they should seek legal advice in relation to the circumstances in which their symptoms arose.