The present century has seen a steady increase in the automation of industrial work; but the number of injuries each year which are attributable to lifting and handling tasks remains high. Accident statistics from the annual reports of HM Chief Inspector of Factories and (subsequently) the Health and Safety Executive, going back to 1924, when such data were first collected systematically, show that despite considerable fluctuations in the overall figure, the percentage attributed to “handling goods” has remained relatively constant*. In each year between 1945 and 1977, handling accidents accounted for between 25% and 30% of the total (HMCIF, 1924–1974; HSE, 1975–1977). Handling accidents were by far the largest category in this system of classification. In 1977, when handling accidents accounted for 30% of the total, second and third places were held by falls (16%) and accidents associated with machinery (14%). Since 1978 a different system of classification has been in use. The nearest relevant category is entitled “overexertion, strenuous or awkward movements and free bodily motion”. For the years from 1978 to 1982 the “overexertion, etc.” category accounted for between 20% and 23% of the total (HSE 1978–1982).
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