Hazardous manual handling

What is hazardous manual handling?

Manual handling is work where you have to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, move, hold or restrain something. Most jobs involve carrying out some type of manual task using the body to move or hold an object, people or animals.

What is a hazardous manual task?

  • repeated, sustained or high force
  • sustained awkward posture
  • repetitive movements
  • exposure to sustained vibration
  • handling people or animals
  • loads that are unstable, unbalanced or hard to hold

These hazards directly stress the body and can lead to an injury.

Managing risks

To manage the risks associated with hazardous manual tasks, a duty holder must follow a risk management process to:

  • identify hazards which could give rise to a risk
  • eliminate the risk, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • minimize the risk by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control, if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk
  • maintain the control measure so that it remains effective
  • review risk control measures.

Find the hazards

Find all the work that involves hazardous manual handling. Not all manual handling is hazardous. Examples of hazardous manual handling include:

  • moving heavy and large sacks of grain
  • using a jackhammer
  • sitting at a cramped desk and typing for long periods at a time
  • using tin snips with grips that are wide apart
  • steering a heavily loaded trolley through a busy warehouse

Musculoskeletal disorders

A musculoskeletal disorder means an injury to, or a disease of, the musculoskeletal system, whether occurring suddenly or over time.

It can be:

  • a back injury
  • a sprain or strained muscle
  • torn ligament or tendon
  • degeneration of a joint or bone
  • nerve damage such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

These ailments can all result from poorly managed hazardous manual tasks.

Contributing factors

There are seven groups of contributing factors that to some extent affect all workplaces, including:

  • individual factors
  • psychosocial factors
  • work organization
  • work layout and awkward postures
  • load and forceful movements
  • task invariability
  • environmental issues.

These factors combine in a way that magnifies their effect. By only addressing one or two factors and not all of them, you are unlikely to achieve the goal in preventing injury.

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