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Manual Handling - Risk Management In A Large Organisation

  • Document Type: Guidance Note
    Keycode: web only
    Industry: General, 
    Category: Controlling OHS Hazards and Risks, Manual Handling, 
    Division Author: Ergonomics
    Publication Date: 08 June 2005
    Date First Published: 23 March 2001
    Summary: This guidance note provides a step by step approach to assist employers in large organisations to effectively manage manual handling and the risk of MSDs. .

First Issued: March 2001

Injuries associated with manual handling are the largest component of all workplace injury, illness and disease in Victoria. It results in human suffering on a large scale as well as a huge cost to the community.

Employers have a legal obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Occupational Health and Safety (Manual Handling) Regulations 1999 to minimise their employees' exposure to the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

This step by step approach is designed to assist employers in large organisations to effectively manage manual handling and the risk of MSDs in their workplace. The WorkSafe Victoria publication Manual Handling (Code of Practice No. 25. 2000) provides further guidance on all the steps below.

1. Demonstrate management commitment
This involves:

  • development and effective dissemination of a health and safety policy which clearly states health and safety objectives and a commitment to improving health and safety performance
  • setting targets for the reduction of injuries arising from manual handling
  • making managers accountable for health and safety performance within work areas under their control
  • provision of necessary resources and other supports for effective implementation of health and safety policy and achievement of targets

2. Establish effective consultative arrangements
Put in place effective health and safety consultative arrangements and inform the employees of the arrangements.

Make sure that the health and safety consultative committee(s):

  • is involved in the development of health and safety policy and procedures
  • meets regularly and minutes of meetings are disseminated to all relevant employees

Ensure that employees are informed of the names of their employee and employer representatives for health and safety matters.

3. Appoint a manual handling co-ordinator
Appoint a competent person as the manual handling co-ordinator for the organisation. This person should have a good knowledge of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Manual Handling part of the Regulations.

The co-ordinator should report to the OHS Committee and be responsible for:

  • preparing and distributing necessary information and worksheets in relation to manual handling
  • assisting in developing and maintaining a list of manual handling tasks to be assessed in each work area
  • assisting in determining the priority for assessing each manual handling task
  • assisting work areas to develop realistic schedules for risk assessments and introduction of solutions
  • ensuring that risk assessments and solutions are documented
  • assisting in the development of solutions and recommending appropriate solutions for implementation
  • liaising with work area supervisors on implementing solutions
  • assisting in evaluation of implemented solutions
  • evaluating manual handling procedures and suggest improvements
  • acting as a resource for the risk assessment teams
  • reporting regularly to the OHS committee on progress of risk assessments and solutions

4. Provide training
Make sure that a proper training needs analysis is carried out and a plan is developed for providing the necessary training to supervisors, Health and Safety Representatives (HSR), deputy HSR and relevant employees on:

  • how to recognise hazardous manual handling
  • how to do risk assessments
  • how to find effective solutions

The training plan should contain the following information:

  • training required
  • training objectives
  • who is to be trained?
  • how is the training to be delivered?
  • who is going to deliver the training?
  • date(s) of training

A senior person in the organisation should be given the responsibility for ensuring the training plan is implemented. The relevant employees should be provided with regular progress reports on the implementation of the training plan.

Additional training needs will also be identified as part of developing solutions for assessed risk, and a plan will be required to ensure this training is provided.

5. Establish risk assessment teams
Divide your workplace up into discrete work areas which perform similar functions. Establish a risk assessment team for each work area.

Each risk assessment team should include a management representative, HSR and/or deputy HSR and an employee who performs manual handling tasks. Other employees should be involved in risk assessments of their work tasks.

Each risk assessment team is responsible for:

  • identifying tasks involving hazardous manual handling in their work area and encouraging employees to provide input into this
  • prioritising the list of identified manual handling tasks requiring assessment and setting time frames
  • assessing tasks according to the agreed time frames
  • developing solutions for assessed tasks
  • evaluating implemented solutions
  • ensuring that the list of manual handling tasks is kept up to date and new tasks are prioritised and added as they are identified
  • ensuring that tasks identified as involving hazardous manual handling that may result from the introduction of new tasks, or from changes to tasks, the work area, and equipment used, are assessed before the changes are made (See Step 12 below).

6. Identify hazardous manual handling
Risk assessment teams should look at all tasks involving manual handling in their area and identify which tasks are hazardous, in consultation with employees doing the task.

Tasks carried out by contractors or their employees, over which the employer has control, should be treated in the same way as tasks carried out by permanent employees.

The tasks identified as hazardous need to be put in an order of priority for risk assessment, taking into account:

  • the nature of the hazardous manual handling identified
  • the nature of any injury or concern reported, related to the task
  • how many incidents have been reported
  • how many persons carry out the identified task
  • how often the task is conducted
  • other relevant issues

Risk assessment teams should develop a list of identified and prioritised tasks with realistic time frames by which each assessment has to be done.

Where tasks are very similar, a single identification and single risk assessment can be made, providing that the identification and assessment take into account any differences. Decisions on whether to do one single assessment or assess each task individually need to be made in consultation with the relevant HSR and/or deputy HSR and employees doing the tasks.

When an injury is reported
When an injury or condition has been reported as a result of manual handling, the relevant risk assessment team should, in consultation with any relevant health and safety representative and the employees doing the task:

  • note the task(s) carried out by the person relevant to the report
  • identify any hazardous manual handling in these task(s)
  • assess the task(s) as a top priority
  • develop appropriate solution(s) for the task(s) if assessed as a risk

7. Do risk assessments
Risk assessment teams should:

  • assess tasks by following the priority list developed for their work area
  • use the risk assessment worksheet provided by the manual handling co-ordinator
  • assess tasks in as much detail as possible, taking into account the factors of postures, movements, forces, duration and frequency of the task, and environmental factors
  • involve a range of employees (don't forget other shifts) in each assessment
  • fully document assessments

8. Develop solutions
Risk assessment teams should develop appropriate solutions to eliminate or reduce the assessed risks, in consultation with any relevant HSR and/or deputy HSR and employees doing the task.

  • first, work out what is causing each of the assessed risk factors (which are the sources of the risk).
  • then, consider what improvements are needed to:
    • the work area
    • the systems of work
    • the object(s) being handled
    • equipment used in the task
  • consider any mechanical aids which could be introduced to make the work easier
  • also work out what training and instruction is necessary to support all of these changes
  • if these changes are not feasible, what information, training and instruction in safe manual handling can be developed to reduce the risk of injury? Note that information, training or instruction in manual handling techniques must not be used as the only or main solution for the risk, unless the other ways listed above cannot be introduced.

The WorkSafe Victoria publication Manual Handling (Code of Practice No. 25. 2000) and the Manual Handling web page and industry web pages provide examples of practical solutions.

In developing solutions, it is important to make sure that a solution does not create another risk, such as introducing machinery that may be dangerous.

9. Implement solutions
Risk assessment teams should document risk control plans to implement the solutions, identifying what needs to be done, the time frames and responsible persons.

The proposed implementation plans and solutions should be discussed by the OHS committee prior to endorsement.

Once the implementation plans and solutions have been endorsed, the manual handling co-ordinator should make all responsible persons aware of what is expected of them.

Make sure that all responsible persons are provided with the necessary authority, resources and support to enable them to implement the solutions.

The OHS committee, and the relevant risk assessment team as well as the employees whose tasks have been assessed, should be provided with regular progress reports on the implementation of solutions.

10. Evaluation of solutions
When a solution has been implemented it will need to be evaluated by the relevant risk assessment team, in consultation with:

  • the employee(s) who perform the task
  • the supervisor
  • the manual handling co-ordinator, if assistance is required.

Once the solutions have been introduced, make sure that they and any equipment are maintained.

11. Recording results
Results of risk assessments, the solutions, implementation plans and evaluations of solutions should be provided to the manual handling co-ordinator for recording on a work area progress sheet.

12. If you make changes to the workplace
If you are planning a change to processes, activities, plant and equipment in the workplace, you need to make sure that:

  • any task involving hazardous manual handling that may result from these changes is identified and assessed by the relevant risk assessment team, in consultation with any relevant health and safety representative in that area, and employees.
  • where there is a risk of injury, a solution is developed and implemented in accordance with steps 8 and 9

Before decisions are made to purchase plant and equipment, staff responsible for this function need to:

  • talk to the area supervisor, any relevant HSR and/or deputy HSR and employees involved in the task about any manual handling issues, and assist them carry out identification and risk assessment of hazardous manual handling associated with the proper use of the plant and equipment, according to Step 6 and 7 above
  • seek alternatives if risk has been assessed
  • obtain advice from the supplier, OHS professionals and employees about ways of eliminating or reducing any assessed risk
  • arrange for a trial of items to be purchased where possible, before decisions are made
  • ensure that the supplier provides any information necessary for the plant to be properly used, including any information about manual handling risk associated with the use of the plant.


Acts and Regulations

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • Occupational Health and Safety (Manual Handling) Regulations 1999

Acts and regulations are available from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 or order online at

View the legislation at Victorian Law Today at

Standards Australia

Copies of standards can be obtained by contacting Standards Australia on 1300 654 646 or by visiting the web site at

Further information

  • Manual Handling (Code of Practice No. 25. 2000)
Special Note on Codes of Practice: Codes of Practice made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 provide practical guidance to people who have duties or obligations under Victoria's OHS laws. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 allows the Minister for Workcover to make Compliance Codes which will provide greater certainty about what constitutes compliance with the OHS laws.

Codes of Practice will continue to be a practical guide for those who have OHS duties and WorkSafe will continue to regard those who comply with the topics covered in the Codes of Practice as complying with OHS laws. WorkSafe will progressively review all Codes of Practice and replace them with guidance material and in appropriate cases, with Compliance Codes.

Copies of publications can be obtained by contacting WorkSafe Victoria on 03 9641 1555, or your local WorkSafe Victoria office.

Other useful health and safety information is available on WorkSafe Victoria's web site; go to
and click on the WorkSafe Victoria logo.

Note: This guidance material has been prepared using the best information available to WorkSafe Victoria. Any information about legislative obligations or responsibilities included in this material is only applicable to the circumstances described in the material. You should always check the legislation referred to in this material and make your own judgement about what action you may need to take to ensure you have complied with the law. Accordingly, the Victorian WorkCover Authority extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for your specific circumstances.