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Manual Handling - Risk Management In A Small Organisation

  • Document Type: Guidance Note
    Keycode: web only
    Industry: General, 
    Category: Controlling OHS Hazards and Risks, Manual Handling, 
    Division Author: Ergonomics
    Publication Date: 27 May 2008
    Date First Published: 23 March 2001
    Summary: This guidance note provides a step by step approach to assist employers in small 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 Regulations 2007 to minimise their employees' exposure to the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) associated with hazardous manual handling.

This step by step approach is designed to assist employers in small 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. Provide training

Provide necessary training to supervisors, health and safety representatives and relevant employees on:

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

2. Identify hazardous manual handling

Look at all tasks involving manual handling, in consultation with any relevant

Health and Safety Representatives (HSR), deputy HSR and employees doing the task and determine which ones involve hazardous manual handling.
Use the Hazard Identification Worksheet in the back of the Code of Practice to document what you find.

  • list all tasks involving hazardous manual handling for risk assessment
  • decide which tasks should be done first – take into account the type of hazardous manual handling identified. It is a good idea to look first at the tasks which have the most hazards, as well as those associated with injuries, those done by more than one person, and those done most often.
  • decide on realistic time frames to carry out risk assessments

When an injury is reported

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

  • 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
  • fix any risk associated with the task.

3. Do risk assessments

Use the worksheets in the back of the Code of Practice to do assessments of all hazardous manual handling tasks to determine the potential for injury. The assessments should be carried out in consultation with any relevant Health and Safety Representatives (HSR), deputy HSR and employees doing the task. Some jobs may involve several tasks, each of which will need to be assessed.

  • assess first the tasks that are associated with injury, those which are done by more than one person, and those done most frequently
  • assessments need to be as detailed as possible, taking into account the factors of postures, movements, forces, duration and frequency of the task, and environmental factors
  • ensure that all completed assessment are filed and readily accessible where there is a risk of a MSD occurring and action is required to fix this.

4. Develop solutions

Develop appropriate solutions to eliminate or reduce the assessed risks, in consultation with any relevant health and safety representatives 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? 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 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.

5. Implement solutions

List what needs to be done, the time frame and the person responsible for making sure it happens.

Make sure all responsible persons fully understand what is expected of them and that they are provided with the necessary authority, resources and support to make changes.

Ensure that the solutions are implemented in accordance with a plan. Trial the solutions with the Health and Safety Representative (HSR), deputy HSR and the employees, to make sure they work and do not introduce any other problems.

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

6. If you make changes to the workplace

If you are planning a change in 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 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 4 and 5.

Before decisions are made to purchase plant and equipment:

  • talk to the area supervisor, any relevant health and safety representative and employees involved in the task about any manual handling issues
  • assist them to identify and assess hazardous manual handling associated with the proper use of the plant and equipment, according to steps 3 and 4
  • 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.

Further information


  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
  • Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
  • 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.

For information on OHS or copies of publications, call WorkSafe Victoria on 1800 136 089 or email us on info@worksafe.vic.gov.au. You can also check out our website at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.

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, WorkSafe Victoria extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for your specific circumstances.