Case study: Hazardous manual handling of construction material

A hazardous manual handling incident causes worker to become unconscious and hospitalized.


What is hazardous manual handling?

Manual handling is work where you have to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, move, hold or restrain something. It’s hazardous manual handling if it involves:

  • 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
Man bending over and picking up object

Case study

How did this happen?

Workers used a tower crane to load packs of three-metre-long metal studs into a cantilevered crane loading platform (CCLP). Then, they unloaded 4 packs at a time from the CCLP onto a makeshift trolley.

Workers using a make shift trolley

The makeshift trolley: A laminated veneer lumber (LVL) skid was placed across the blades / tines of a battery powered pallet jack. This was supported by a dolly trolley made up of form ply and fixed castor wheels with a LVL skid at the opposite end due to the length of metal studs.

Workers pushed the load to help the powered pallet jack operator, who was reversing the load out of the CCLP. Next, workers unloaded the metal stud packs from the CCLP. Workers then moved whole packs onto a plastering trolley to assist floor transportation.

Packs each contained 100, three metre metal studs, weighing 174kg. This work system involved four people. Two workers pushed a single pack onto the plastering trolley. One worker supported the plastering trolley to receive a pack of studs. The fourth worker supported the remaining load, from the opposite side of the powered pallet jack.

The hazardous incident

The trolley was being used to move the packs of metal studs, when the load became unbalanced, sliding off one end of the trolley. The makeshift trolley struck the worker in a catapult motion, knocking him unconscious.

Worker using a make shift trolley hit by laminate timber

Many construction sites use a CCLP, pallet jacks and/or trolleys. However, most sites don’t have any supporting systems of work to make them safe for use, which may increase the risk of workplace injury and/or fatality.

The solution

A trolley was engineered to remove and transport materials from the CCLP and safely wheel these through the site. This reduced the number of packs transported at one time and the amount of double handling. The modified trolley has also reduced the number of workers and the duration required to undertake the task leading to increased productivity.

A trolley

Safety issues

Unsafe systems of work may increase the risk of workplace injuries or fatality. Unsafe systems include improper use of trolleys to move material around a construction site. Various construction site time pressures can increase the reliance on the use of CCLP’s. These pressures can include demands on tower crane operations and access to the CCLP. This can lead to workers using makeshift or incorrect methods to meet deadlines or expectations, resulting in hazardous manual handling work. Risks can result in:

Man bending over
Musculoskeletal disorders.
Man on crutches
Broken / fractured bones.
Man with hand crushed by object
Crushing injuries.
Man's leg hit by falling object
Getting hit by objects.

Key steps to improve hazardous manual handling of construction material

  1. Design a system of work that uses fit-for-purpose mechanical aids such as skids and trolleys.
  2. Ensure these fit-forpurpose devices are controlled when unloading CCLP – this applies to unloading CCLP onto any open hard deck.
  3. The safe system of work should consider how the crane's lifting chains will be unhooked and removed.
  4. Use battery-powered pallet jacks to minimise the hazardous manual handling risks when moving pallets around as far as reasonably practicable.
  5. Trolleys should be designed and engineered by a suitably competent person to confirm the trolley can support the required dynamic loads.
  6. Ensure the use of properly engineered powered plant with mechanical aids such as skid trolleys for long loads when unloading CCLPs.
  7. Ensure equipment is inspected, maintained and in a condition that is safe and without risks to health.
  8. Work scheduling must allow enough time for unloading and handling of materials on site.
  9. Ensure workers are inducted, trained, competent and licensed (where required) for the work being undertaken and given information and supervision as necessary.
  10. Document your procedure for unloading CCLPs with the use of mechanical aids.

Workplace resource

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must (as far as is reasonably practicable):

  • provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health
  • provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees – this includes identifying risks to health or safety and eliminating those risks as far as is reasonably practicable and, where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, to reduce those risks as far as is reasonably practicable in accordance with the hierarchy of controls provided in the OHS Regulations

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, employers must also (as far as is reasonably practicable) Identify and then eliminate or reduce any risk of a musculoskeletal disorder associated with hazardous manual handling in accordance with the requirements of OHS regulation 27.

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