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 to lift, 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.


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.


For more information on how AlertForce can help you with your manual handling training call 1800 900 222 during business hours or visit https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/manual-handling/


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