Hazardous manual handling in sex work

This guidance explains hazardous manual handling. It is for employers in sex work businesses and may help them fulfil their health and safety duties. The guidance may also help sex workers and others with duties.


A duty to control hazardous manual handling

The OHS Act places health and safety duties on employers and others. Employers have a duty under the OHS Act to provide and maintain a working environment for employees that is safe and without risks to health. This duty includes identifying hazards and controlling risks from hazardous manual handling. As an employer, you must fulfil this duty so far as is reasonably practicable. Under the OHS Act, your employees can include independent contractors you have engaged and employees of the independent contractors.

When manual handling becomes hazardous

Manual handling is work in which a person has to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, move, hold or restrain something. Sex work may require manual handling.

Sometimes, manual handling can cause harm. When manual handling can cause harm, it is known as hazardous manual handling.

Manual handling becomes hazardous manual handling if it involves:

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

Injuries from hazardous manual handling

Hazardous manual handling can cause injury, illness or disease. The injuries, illnesses and diseases from hazardous manual handling are called musculoskeletal disorders. They're also known as MSDs.

Types of MSD

MSDs include:

  • sprains and strains
  • back injuries
  • joint and bone injuries, including injuries to the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, hands and feet
  • nerve injuries or compression
  • soft-tissue injuries
  • hernias
  • chronic pain

Parts of the body that MSDs affect

MSDs in sex work can involve different parts of the body, including:

  • back
  • hands, wrists, arms and shoulders
  • neck
  • jaw
  • legs, hips, knees and feet

Main sources of MSD risks

The main sources of MSD risks are:

  • workplace layout
  • workplace environment
  • the way work is done, or systems of work
  • the items used in the hazardous manual handling, for example, tools and equipment

Examples of hazardous manual handling

Following are examples of hazardous manual handling in sex work.

  • Using sustained awkward postures while:
    • sitting at a cramped reception desk
    • providing services
  • Repetitive movements, such as those involved with:
    • providing in-person services
    • online work requiring repetitive performances
    • performing stage routines
    • texting clients for long periods
  • Exposure to constant vibration, such as when driving for long periods on uneven roads to attend an outcall.
  • Handling loads that are unstable, unbalanced or hard to hold, such as when:
    • carrying a bundle of towels on stairs while wearing heels
    • operating large props on stage
  • Using tools and equipment to provide services.
  • Moving furniture, such as beds.
  • Transporting, rigging, operating, installing or removing equipment.

MSD does not include an injury caused by crushing, entrapment or cutting that is primarily from the mechanical operation of plant. Plant includes:

  • any machinery, equipment, appliance, implement and tool
  • any part of any of those things
  • anything fitted, connected or related to any of those things

Regulations cover hazardous manual handling

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 are a set of laws. Known as the OHS Regulations, they build on the OHS Act. They set out how to fulfil duties, obligations and processes that support the OHS Act.

The OHS Regulations require employers to identify hazardous manual handling at work. As an employer, you must do this so far as reasonably practicable.

You have to take action if you identify hazardous manual handling at work. You must eliminate the risk of MSD if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

You might not be able to eliminate the risk of MSD. In this case, you have to reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable.

Reasonably practicable

'Reasonably practicable' is a legal concept. It is also a requirement under some parts of the OHS Act and OHS Regulations. Simply, it means doing what a reasonable person in the same position would do. More information about reasonably practicable is available on the WorkSafe website.

How to find and fix hazardous manual handling

A hazard is something that can cause harm. A risk is the chance of a hazard causing harm. Harm includes injury, illness or death.

There is a wide range of hazardous manual handling hazards in sex work. They range from holding an awkward position for extended periods and repetitive movements to lifting, carrying or moving heavy objects or people.

The following steps may help you manage the risks from hazardous manual handling:

WorkSafe Advisory Service

WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.

1800 136 089 More contact options

Related pages