Skip to content

Everyday activity, unwanted outcome: Poor manual handling leads to back strain

A member has reported an incident in which a member of the shore staff injured his back due to the incorrect lifting of a heavy box from above head height. The person was working alone in a container unit onshore, searching for a spare part for an engine by individually removing boxes from the shelves to look inside them.

On the top shelf (2m high) there was a box with a turbocharger in it, which weighed approximately 20kg. Although the contents were clearly labelled on the box, the person was not expecting the weight of the box to be that heavy and had not prepared his stance ready to correctly accept the weight.

When the box was removed from the shelf, it fell to waist height; to avoid damaging the equipment he held on tight to it. This caused a jolt and strain to his back. Having hurt his back he continued with light duties for the rest of the day. He had previous experience with back strain and did not require to visit an external medical unit.

Our member noted the following:

  • The box was subsequently repositioned on a lower shelf;
  • Self-applied haste caused the person to not check the label on the box before lifting it off the shelf. If he had taken the time to read the label he would have been warned to position himself in such a way to be able to accept the heavy load correctly and without injury;
  • Heavy items should never be placed on the top shelves; they should always, where possible, be stored at waist height shelves to promote safer manual handling.

Members may wish to refer to the following incidents (search words: cargo, spill, leak, container):

Members should be aware that IMCA has safety promotional material covering manual handling:

Safety Event

Published: 22 October 2015
Download: IMCA SF 16/15

IMCA Safety Flashes
Submit a Report

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.