Hazardous manual handling training

Protect your workers against musculoskeletal disorders.

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Training must support higher order control measures

Hazardous manual handling is the biggest cause of injury in Victorian workplaces. It can cause injuries called musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These injuries include strains and sprains and can be debilitating, long-lasting and severely impact a person's quality of life.

Training can help to protect employees and contractors from MSDs. However, training must not be the first option that employers use to control risks from hazardous manual handling.

You must use the highest level of risk control in the hierarchy of controls, so far as reasonably practicable. The best control will always be to eliminate the risk. This means you need to prevent employees from doing hazardous manual handling at all, if you can.

If you cannot eliminate the risk of hazardous manual handling, then you must change the workplace to lower the risk. Changing the workplace can include any of the following (alone or in combination):

  • changing the layout or environment 
  • changing systems of work 
  • changing things used in the hazardous manual handling, or 
  • introducing mechanical aids

The only time you can use information, instruction or training on their own, to lower the risk of manual handling, is if it is not reasonably practicable to apply any of these higher order controls.

However, you can use information, instruction or training to support the above control measures to further minimise the risk.

It important to remember that one of an employer’s key duties is to give the information, instruction, supervision or training that employees and contractors need to be able to work safely.

Hazardous manual handling training and the law

An employer’s duty to use suitable hazardous manual handling control measures, including training, are set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and OHS Regulations 2017.

To help employers meet their legal requirements and provide a safe workplace, WorkSafe made a hazardous manual handling compliance code. The code is a practical guide that provides examples and tools that can be applied to any workplace.

What to cover in hazardous manual handling training

Employers should provide practical and easily understood training that covers:

  • how to do the work safely – including using relevant mechanical aids, tools, equipment and safe work procedures
  • how to report problems or maintenance issues, for example, reporting a faulty mechanical aid

Training should also include the risk management process in your workplace, including:

  • identifying manual handling hazards in your workplace
  • assessing hazardous manual handling risk factors, such as force, postures, repetition, duration, environmental and psychosocial risks
  • control measures used in your workplace to minimise the risk of injury

Training needs to use language and examples that everyone understands.

‘How to lift’ training is not effective hazardous manual handling training

Providing 'How to lift' training is not useful to prevent or reduce MSDs and an employer is not meeting their legal requirement to control hazardous manual handling risks if they do this.

'How to lift' training includes:

  • training employees and contractors in lifting techniques such as lifting with a straight back
  • stretching and warm up programs
  • relying on employees and contractors to follow basic principles, for example, using "good" posture, or not lifting things that are too heavy

Hazardous manual handling training is for everyone

Suitable training must be given to new employees and contractors as part of their induction.

Training should also be given to:

  • anyone who must do, supervise or manage hazardous manual handling tasks
  • those responsible for selecting and maintaining equipment 
  • those responsible for designing and organising work
  • health and safety representatives

Training happens more than once

The training an employee or contractor gets when they first start at a workplace should be the start of an ongoing safety process.

Regular training is an important part of reviewing and updating safety measures.

Training should happen:

  • when starting a new job or role
  • when working conditions, processes or equipment are changed, such as automation or new devices
  • when a risk remains after higher order controls are put in place
  • when new safety measures are introduced
  • when legislation changes
  • regularly and at least annually, on an ongoing basis

Employers should keep clear records of all hazardous manual handling training to make sure they are meeting their legal requirements. Records should include the date of the training, the topics covered and the names and signatures of the trainer and employees and contractors who attended each session.

Training must be reviewed regularly

Hazardous manual handling training should be reviewed regularly.

Employers must review the training:

  • before there are any changes that affect how or where hazardous manual handling is done, including new controls, or changes to work process, plant or equipment
  • if the employer gets new or more information about hazardous manual handling
  • when an employee or contractor suffers a MSD
  • when there is a notifiable incident involving hazardous manual handling
  • if the risk control measures do not control the risk
  • when an HSR requests it (see below)
  • if the OHS legislation changes

A HSR can ask an employer to review training when any of the above things happen. They can also ask for a review when the employer has not properly reviewed the training or has not taken one or more of the above issues into account.

More information

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