Emergency Information

Manual handling

Manual handling covers a wide range of activities including lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, throwing and carrying. It includes repetitive tasks such as packing, typing, assembling, cleaning and sorting, using hand tools, and operating machinery and equipment.
Because most jobs involve some form of manual handling, most workers are at risk of manual handling injuries. Of course, not all manual handling tasks are hazardous. But it is significant that around a quarter of all workplace injuries are caused by manual handling.

What is hazardous manual handling?

Hazardous manual handling means manual handling that involves any of the following:

  • Repetitive or sustained application of force
  • Repetitive or sustained awkward posture
  • Repetitive or sustained movement
  • Application of high force
  • Exposure to sustained vibration
  • Manual handling of live people or animals – unpredictable actions and behaviour
  • Manual handling of loads that are unstable, unbalanced or difficult to hold
  • Forces, posture, movements and vibration usually affect each other.

Musculoskeletal disorders (i.e. disorders affecting muscles and joints) associated with manual handling cause significant human suffering and significant decreases in productivity. From recent statistics, strains and sprains affecting shoulder, neck, arm, hand or back, account for 55 per cent of all Work Cover claims, 62% of all Work Cover costs and 70%of long-term Work Cover claims. 

When making an assessment of manual handling the following four factors must be considered:

Factors Questions

 Is it:

  • Heavy?
  • Bulky or unwieldy?
  • Difficult to grasp?
  • Unstable, or with contents likely to shift?
  • Unpredictable?
  • Sharp, hot or otherwise potentially damaging?
 Individual   capability

 Consider these factors:

  • Anybody very tall or short?
  • Age considerations
  • Individual gender differences
  • Pregnant or a new mother
  • Physical weakness
  • Pre-existing injury
  • Adjustment for employees with impairment
  • Require a special knowledge or training for its safe performance

 Does it involve:

  • Teaching/holding away from body
  • Twisting the body
  • Stooping downwards
  • Lifting from floor
  • Lifting above shoulder
  • Poor workplace layout
  • Long carrying distances
  • Static postures/lifting
  • Frequent or prolonged physical effort
  • Insufficient rest or recovery periods
 Environment   (working)

 Are there:                                                                              

  • Constraints on posture
  • Slippery/contaminated floors
  • Variations in levels
  • Exposure to extreme heat/cold
  • Strong air movements
  • Poor lighting conditions
  • Consider effects of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)