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Types of hazards

Manual handling and lifting

Manual handling is defined by the Manual Handling Regulations "as any activity requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, push, pull, carry or otherwise move or restrain any object."

Manual handling is much more than lifting or lowering an object.

It includes:

And activities involving sustained (awkward) posture and repetitive actions.

Inappropriate manual handling and lifting

Manual handling injuries can occur to tendons in the wrists, arms and shoulders that may cause prolonged agonising pain. This is the basis of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).

The back is particularly vulnerable when subjected to the continuous pressure of lifting heavy objects and/or continual bad posture. Back injury is the single biggest Occupational Health and Safety problem in Australian workplaces. Back injuries account for approximately 25% of all WorkCover claims.

Manual Handling Injury Prevention

Step 1: Consider the task

Step 2: Consider the objects to be moved

Step 3: Consider the procedure

Step 4: Consider the lifter

As well as back problems, inappropriate manual handling can lead to:

  • Abdominal hernias
  • Aggravation of circulatory and respiratory disease
  • Fatigue leading to accident
  • Injuries arising from sudden exertion
The current Code of Practice on Manual Handling issued by Victorian WorkCover recommends a systematic approach, which focuses on prevention, and is to be used to reduce the risks to employees in manual handling.

Procedures for lifting an object

Step 1: Examine the object

Step 2: Plan the lift

Step 3: Determine if lifting equipment or help is required

Step 4: Wear the correct personal protective equipment (e.g. safety shoes, bump hat, gloves)

Controlling Manual Handling Risk

Traditional approaches to controlling manual handling risks tended to focus on setting weight limits for lifting, and training in correct lifting techniques. These measures alone were inadequate in reducing the number and severity of injuries. There are many factors, other than the weights of objects, which contribute to the risk of manual handling injury. The layout of the workplace, the skill and experience of staff, posture, the duration and frequency of the activity, and work organisation may also increase the likelihood of manual handling injury.

Manual handling tasks likely to pose a risk to health and safety must be examined, and assessed. Where tasks are assessed as a risk, the risk must be controlled. In order to avoid injuries control of manual handling risks should be planned, and managed systematically and reviewed regularly.

A systematic approach to reducing manual handling injuries should include:

Developing a plan for managing manual handling risk


  • What needs to be done?
  • Who will do it?
  • What resources are needed?
  • What is the timeframe
  • Who can authorise changes?
  • What is the process for reporting?

  • Staff carrying out manual handling tasks
  • Health and safety representatives

  • Identify
  • Assess
  • Plan controls for manual handling representatives
Taking manual handling issues in account

  • Designing new work areas and work practices
  • Receiving new clients
  • Purchasing equipment and furniture
  • Use of existing work and storage areas
Adressing manual handling risk

  • Identify hazards
  • Assess risk
  • Control risk (including particular training)
  • Evaluate control measures
Review and evaluation of the overall plan for managing manual handling risk

  • Have all parts of the plan been put in place?
  • Does the plan need to be changed?
  • Has manual handling risk