Manual handling is a risky activity. We all have to perform manual handling tasks at work. We should always be looking at ways to make our workplace safer through better practice.

Injuries resulting from manual handling can be very painful and difficult to fix. Therefor it is very important to acquire the basic knowledge and skills necessary to work safely and efficiently when manual handling.

Manual handling means using your body to exert force to handle, support or restrain any object, including people or animals. It is not just lifting or carrying heavy objects. It includes lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, lowering, throwing, carrying, packing, typing, assembling, cleaning, sorting and using tools.

The term is not limited to handling heavy objects – pruning plants, stacking items onto a shelf, using a broom and even using a keyboard are all examples of manual handling.

Hazardous manual handling could be:

  • repetitive or sustained use of force
  • awkward postures or movements
  • tasks that people would find difficult due to the high force required
  • exposure to sustained vibration
  • manual handling of unstable loads that are difficult to grasp or hold.

Generally people think of manual handling as lifting heavy bags, boxes, cartons or other activities involving considerable effort. However the Regulations apply to any physical activity using force, whether it be lifting, bending, typing, filing or sorting.

One in three injuries to Australian workers are caused by manual handling, with inexperienced workers at greatest risk. Manual handling injuries are not limited to those sustained by lifting or carrying heavy loads.

We should examine and assess any manual handling tasks likely to be a risk and to properly manage all tasks assessed as being a risk. A person can be injured when manipulating objects in a variety of ways, including pulling, pushing, holding or restraining.

Good posture and lifting techniques can help reduce the risks, but research indicates that making changes to workplace design is the most effective approach to preventing manual handling injury.