Manual Handling and Repetitive Tasks in Health-Related Franchise Businesses

Chris Beasley | Safety Navigator

Manual Handling and Repetitive Tasks in Health-Related Franchise Businesses

Over the past few issues of this publication, we've discussed some of the critical health and safety hazards and tips for mitigating those risks for franchise businesses in general.

We've also looked at the case study of Anytime Fitness using a cloud-based system and support to reduce the risk of a workplace incident occurring within one of their 500 plus clubs in Australia.

In this issue, we discuss the key health and safety risks in health, fitness and beauty franchise businesses.

Specifically, we will address the number one health and safety hazard facing each of those industry segments and what may be done about it.

Hazards in health, fitness and beauty franchises

Beauty

Within the beauty industry, several health and safety hazards face franchisees, and generally, these hazards stem from working with both hazardous substances and people (clients) in what is typically a small working environment.

These hazards are:

  • Hazardous chemicals including irritation and inhalation
  • Manual, repetitive tasks
  • Lifting heavy objects

SafeWork NSW has some tips on managing those health and safety hazards in a hair, personal services and beauty business.

Those tips can be found on SafeWork NSW's website at the following link:

https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/your-industry/other-services

General health and fitness

The general health and fitness industry segment is made up of a group or individual training, and fitness businesses - either personal training or cross fit-style sessions or gyms/clubs that are either staffed or not and many now have 24/7 opening hours.

The hazards faced by these businesses are as follows:

  • Working alone
  • Manual, repetitive tasks
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Client aggression
  • Use of contractors (i.e. personal trainers and the like)
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The number one hazard in health, fitness and beauty franchises

According to SafeWork Australia, the number one hazard facing all businesses in this industry is manual handling/repetitive tasks.

Fifty-Seven per cent of all workplace incidents that resulted in a serious claim that occurred in 2017/18 were either joint/muscle/tendon injuries or muscular-skeletal/connective tissue injuries - both caused as a direct result of either heavy lifting or repetitive strain tasks — equating to 60,525 incidents resulting in serious workers compensation claims in Australian businesses each year.

In addition to the above, those in the health, fitness and beauty franchise industry (and more broadly, the community and personal service industry) equate to 17 per cent of all serious workers compensation claims each year.

SafeWork Australia link: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/book/work-related-injury-and-disease-key-whs-statistics-australia-2018#serious-claims-by-nature-of-injurydisease1

Some examples of these manual handling and repetitive tasks are: moving equipment around, moving/massaging clients, using instruments such as scissors for long periods, repeatedly demonstrating exercises, loading and unloading exercise equipment

Manual handling and repetitive tasks hazard - What to do about it

When assessing then controlling the risk of any health and safety hazard, we look to several factors, but none more so than:

  • The likelihood of the hazard causing a person harm
  • The consequences; the degree of injury the hazard would cause a person

Given that the health, fitness and beauty industry rely on its workers to perform manual handling and repetitive tasks for most of the time they are working, the likelihood of an injury related to these actions is higher than in many other industries.

When looking to mitigate the risk of an injury occurring relating to these work tasks, franchisors, franchisees and their workers, should look to the following:

  • Acknowledge the risk: It may sound obvious, but possibly the most critical risk mitigation strategy in this instance is acknowledging the risk. Including discussing this with staff and asking for their feedback, posting some useful manual handling tips on staff noticeboards and sharing information between franchisors and franchisees.
  • Manual Handling training: A quick general manual handling training session for all staff not only assists staff to acknowledge the issue, but it also gives them tips on how to undertake key manual handling tasks in the safest manner possible.
  • Job Design: Where possible, staff should be rotated within the workplace to ensure any one individual has minimised ongoing exposure to a repetitive task. Likewise, job design should detail the number and length of breaks between tasks staff should be taking
  • Staying 'warm': Again, this may be obvious given the industry we're looking at, but staff should always stay warm by stretching just before any manual or repetitive task is undertaken, rather than for example, moving from a desk task directly to a manual or repetitive task where the body is 'cold'.
     

In many industries, technology is rapidly replacing worker, primarily where manual or repetitive tasks are undertaken. The health, fitness and beauty industry, however, is more of an outlier to this trend, where the very nature of the sector, i.e. offering personal services to clients means just that - the worker and the client interfacing for that service to be rendered and this means exposure to the hazard remains high.

Again, possibly the most critical risk mitigation strategy to reduce the number of workplace incidents relating to manual or repetitive tasks is acknowledging the risk itself. 

This means facing the stark reality that exposure to this hazard is higher for workers in this industry than in most others. Franchisors, franchisees and their workers, need to keep open lines of communication to identify any manual handling or repetitive tasks and how those can be better managed to reduce the risk of an incident. Moreover, where gaps are identified, such as incorrect techniques being used, they need to be addressed in the most appropriate manner, in this case - manual handling training.