Manual Handling – what is it and what are the risks?

What is manual handling?

Manual handling is the transporting or supporting of a load including lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving objects by hand or by bodily force. It applies to any activity that requires an individual or person to lift, hold or restrain, move or support a load.


What are the risks of manual handling?

Injury from manual handling has a major impact on all workplaces, and costs the economy millions of dollars every year. Workers involved in the moving and handling of goods are at risk and injuries and suffering can be linked to any work involving handling of loads. There are risks in handling even light loads if a repetitive task is being carried out in poor conditions. Poor ergonomics and workplace layout are a factor in many hazardous manual handling tasks.

Risks can be found in all work sectors, but healthcare, agriculture and construction are recognised as high-risk industries due to the number and nature of the manual handling activities. So if you require any person to lift, lower, push or pull or restrain any object consider getting workplace training and an implementing a structured policy around these risks.


How to assess manual handling risks

A typical way to assess manual handling activities is to look at four specific areas including what is the task? How will I be able to lift safely? What is the load weight and what is the environment? These assessments need to be done before any manual handling.

As with any assessment, the workplace should be involved in the process and be able to offer relevant guidance in their duty of care especially for high-risk industries and include the following key factors:

  • the task: any activity involve twisting, stooping, bending, excessive travel, pushing, pulling or precise positioning of the load, sudden movement, inadequate rest or recovery periods, team handling or seated work?
  • the individual:does the individual require unusual strength or height for the activity, are they pregnant, disabled or suffering from a health problem. Is specialist knowledge or training required?
  • the load:is the load heavy, unwieldy, difficult to grasp, sharp, hot, cold, difficult to grip, are the contents likely to move or shift?
  • the environment: are there space constraints, uneven, slippery or unstable floors, variations in floor levels, extremely hot, cold or humid conditions, poor lighting, poor ventilation, gusty winds, clothing or clothing that restricts movement?

Topics covered in manual handling training

  • How to use appropriate posture and handling techniques to reduce muscle load on exertion
  • Managing work tasks involving vibration in accordance with workplace policies and duty of care procedures
  • Using appropriate manual handling techniques and equipment to meet customer needs within own scope of responsibility
  • How to package loads appropriately for easy handling and lifting
  • How to follow lifting limitations within relevant guidelines
  • How to use safe work practices in handling loads
  • Why wearing appropriate personal protective equipment clothing is important
  • Identifying work health and safety (WHS) hazards, how to assess risk and report to a supervisor or manager
  • How to effectively contribute to workplace design and task analysis to ensure appropriate work areas are developed in accordance with WHS laws
  • Following workplace policies and procedures in relation to the scheduling of tasks
  • How to carry out equipment and environmental maintenance in accordance with a workplace preventative maintenance schedule
  • Understanding the importance of following workplace procedures for reporting symptoms and injuries to self and or others
  • Understanding workplace procedures for any return to work program

Manual handling is one of the leading causes of injury and death in the workplace and in each state across Australia training is the key to minimising the risks associated with incorrect lifting procedures. Each state in Australia has laws surrounding manual handling. Here is a snapshot of what’s required in NSW and Victoria (each state has its own laws and regulations – check out what’s required in your state or territory online).

Safework NSW – Work Health and Safety Regulation NSW says:

A manual task becomes hazardous when one or more of the following risk factors are present:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • vibration

Over the past four years more than 145,000 workers have been injured in NSW workplaces as a result of manual tasks. Seven died and more than 1300 were permanently disabled.

Safework Victoria

The technique must be specific, designed for the work and the workplace where it will be used. When training an employee in a specific manual handling technique, make sure they:

  • understand the reasons for doing the work in a particular way
  • can recognise the risks and decide the best way to do the work
  • can do the work properly and practise the technique before being required to use it
  • are properly supervised when the work is being carried out.

You should assess the techniques that your employees are using, and provide refresher training as required. This is particularly important for work that is not done very often.

Training in specific lifting techniques is often used to address the danger of lifting heavy objects. But repetitive lifting may pose a risk, irrespective of which technique is used. This is why training alone is not an effective risk control. In order to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries a solid risk management plan needs to be put in place.

Refer to Safework’s Code of Practice. Training in specific lifting techniques is often used to address the danger of lifting heavy objects. But repetitive lifting may pose a risk, irrespective of which technique is used. This is why training alone is not an effective risk control.


For more information on how AlertForce can help you with your manual handling training call 1800 900 222 during business hours or visit our Manual Handling Training courses which includes courses in aged care.


Manual handling certificate

Are you looking for a workers course for manual handling trainer that can be used for refresher training? We offer an online course for healthcare workers including those who work in aged care.

Organisational Duty of Care

For organisational heads, we provide online training will enable you to meet legal requirements. Manual handling also known as manual tasks, includes the task of assessing risks associated with various related activities.

Safe manual handling policies and procedures enable businesses to provide a secure working environment. Typically push pull carry techniques is something you cannot do without proper training. Training will also help in reducing claims for compensation which prompts insurers to charge lower premiums and is bound to increase output due to reduced absenteeism by workers.

What better than to get a training course that meets all state Occupational Handling and Safety (OHS) or Work Health and Safety regulations and all at your convenience? It is done either in a span of 3 hours face-to-face or 45-60 minutes online, whichever suits you better.

How often should I undertake Manual Handling Refresher Training?

Manual Handling training is something that needs to be refreshed from time to time. Refer back to your workplace to find exactly when you need to undertake refresher training. As a guideline though, the risk of injury increases the longer you leave it, particularly if you perform manual handling tasks on a regular basis.

You should not leave the refreshment of your manual handling training longer than 3 years. In many cases, it may be advisable to do a manual handling course earlier than this, particularly if you need your manual handling certificate for compliance reasons.

Manual Handling in the Healthcare / Aged Care Sector

In the health care industry, many employers require proof of manual handling training. One simple way to do this is by getting your manual handling certificate of completion online. You’ll need to put aside a couple of hours in total to do your manual handling course, but once your manual handling training is done, and you’ve passed all the quizzes you’ll be able to print out your certificate on the spot to give to your employer.

Online is becoming an increasingly popular way of getting a certificate particularly for those who are just refreshing their prior accredited manual handling training. Our course includes all the necessary manual handling best practice.

You can find out more about what is manual handling here to go to the relevant page.

Why is manual handling awareness in healthcare important?

Manual handling remains the single largest cause of injuries to health care workers. Importantly, manual handling injuries are a significant cause of the loss of nurses from health and community services. Other occupational groups at risk include facility cleaners and health care assistants.

What is different to other Manual Handling?

You are most likely working in healthcare because you want to help people. Often the people you help have poor mobility. They depend on you to get around or in some cases just the simple task of turning in bed.

The human body is a very awkward heavy object.  If you were asked to work in another job where you were required to move objects weighing an average 80kg or more, you would probably be going for the forklift. Yet some healthcare workers continue to handle patients, day in day out, as if there were no consequences. Everybody knows of a colleague who has chronic back or neck pain due to working in the healthcare industry.

How bad is the problem?

The following major contributors to nurse injuries have been recorded:

  • manual handling of people
  • muscular stress with no objects being handled
  • slips, trips and falls
  • manual handling of trolleys
  • the use and adjustment of beds
  • handling of linen and lead aprons.

Sprains and strains were the main types of manual handling injury. Of injuries to registered nurses, 40 per cent involved the back, 12 per cent the upper limbs, and 9 per cent the lower limbs. Of injuries to enrolled nurses, 30 per cent were to the back and 17 per cent to the upper limbs. Beds were involved in nearly all patient-handling activities where injuries occurred, e.g. repositioning and transferring patients.

Manual handling is the most common cause of injuries for employees working in aged care facilities, accounting for 58 per cent of all injuries.  Nurses, carers, cleaners, laundry, maintenance, administration and kitchen staff have all been injured during manual handling.

For more information on manual handling visit here.

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