Employees are at risk when they move or lift large, heavy, bulky or difficult-to-handle objects such as equipment or furniture from:
- the ground
- low levels
- above shoulder height
Employees are also at risk when they repetitively lift and move objects.
Moving or lifting objects that are large, heavy, bulky, awkward or difficult to handle can put employees at risk of injuries known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include sprains, strains, fractures and soft-tissue injuries to the back and shoulders. MSDs can occur suddenly or develop over time. More information about MSDs is available in WorkSafe's Hazardous manual handling compliance code.
Lifting, reaching, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting and repetitive or sustained use of force can increase the risk of an MSD. Work requiring awkward postures such as working above shoulder height or below knee height can also increase risks of an MSD.
Common sources of risk include:
- inappropriate storage facilities. For example, shelves above shoulder height
- lack of storage
- clutter that makes access and movement difficult
- uneven floor surfaces
- inappropriate or no equipment or aids to move objects
- a mismatch between the object to be moved and available moving equipment or aids
- not enough people to do the task
- limited time. For example, needing to move objects quickly or no time to wait for help
- heavy, awkward or bulky objects
Hazardous manual handling
Hazardous manual handling is work which requires a person to use force to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, move, hold or restrain something. Moving or lifting objects can be hazardous manual handling.
WorkSafe has guidance which can help eliminate or reduce and control risks of hazardous manual handling.
Employers have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. Further, employers must provide employees with any necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations), employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, eliminate any risk of an MSD associated with hazardous manual handling. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a risk of an MSD associated with hazardous manual handling, the employer must reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable.
The following control measures can help control risks from moving and lifting objects.
- Risk management
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004External link
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017External link
Information for employers: Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Hazardous manual handling
Compliance code: Hazardous manual handling
Controlling OHS hazards and risks: A handbook for workplaces
The hierarchy of control