This guidance may help employers eliminate or reduce and control injury risks to employees moving or lifting large, heavy, bulky or difficult-to-handle objects.
Employees are at risk when they move or lift large, heavy, bulky or difficult-to-handle objects such as equipment or furniture from:
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.
Employers have a duty to consult, so far as reasonably practicable, with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) when identifying hazardous manual handling or MSD risks in the workplace. Employers must also consult with employees and their HSRs when making decisions about measures to control risks to health and safety.
Consulting with employees is likely to result in better risk control measures because it gives them the opportunity to contribute ideas and is likely to improve the uptake of risk control measures.
In consultation with employees and HSRs, develop systems of work that:
provide employees with information, instruction, training or supervision in relation to work procedures and the use of equipment
provide hazard-reporting processes so safety issues can be identified and controlled as soon as possible
maintain equipment and aids in a suitable condition through regular maintenance and inspections
provide and encourage the use of mechanical aids to lift or move objects. For example, self-height-adjusting bin inserts in laundry trolleys
reduce the frequency of objects being moved or lifted
identify weight, size and recommended handling instructions for all relevant objects
reduce bending or reaching by storing objects at waist height
reduce the size or weight of objects
ensure there are enough employees for the task when team handling and that employees match each other when team handling is used. Take into account the employees' height, physical strength and capabilities and carefully plan lifts or moves
allocate enough time to complete activities
incorporate job rotation where necessary. Job rotation involves moving employees for set periods of time through a variety of work that requires different postures, movements and forces
The occupational health and safety (OHS) risk management process helps employers to eliminate or reduce and control the risk of MSD associated with hazardous manual handling, so far as reasonably practicable. The risk management process involves hazard identification, risk assessment, risk control measures and monitoring, reviewing and where necessary, revising risk control measures. WorkSafe has guidance which can help employers control OHS hazards and risks.