May 9, 2019

Report Examines Effectiveness of Manual Handling Training Programs

A report published by IRSST, a nonprofit scientific research organization in Québec, Canada, seeks to explain the reported lack of effectiveness of manual handling training programs. Researchers examined papers covered by five previous literature reviews, or meta-analyses, published between 2007 and 2014 that concluded that “training given to manual material handlers is of questionable value, despite being widely disseminated.” The authors of the IRSST report set out to understand how the authors of the meta-analyses arrived at their conclusions and why the effectiveness of current handling training programs is under question.

According to IRSST’s report, the meta-analyses’ finding that these training programs are ineffective or partially effective “is based on insufficient information with respect to the characteristics of the training programs evaluated.” The authors note that the training programs inventoried and evaluated in the meta-analyses were described briefly or not at all. They argue that having more information about handling training programs would make it easier to explain their reported lack of effectiveness and propose ways to improve training.

IRSST researchers analyzed training programs discussed in the references provided in the five previous reviews. The report concludes that “training focused mainly on learning and adopting the safe handling technique has little impact in terms of prevention.”

“It is important to emphasize that what should be questioned is not the relevance of offering training programs, but rather the type of training that is focused solely on learning and adopting safe handling techniques,” the authors explain. “These types of programs have been criticized, but arguments in their favor have also been provided. The techniques themselves should not be rejected, but [they] should no longer constitute the focus of training.”

The full report is available for download from IRSST’s website.