Opening and closing heavy doors
This guidance may help employers reduce the risk of injury to employees opening and closing heavy doors.
Use solutions with the least risk
Opening and closing large refrigerator doors is often difficult. These doors are often large enough to allow forklift traffic and are usually found in coolrooms. The doors are heavy and thick and, without a good maintenance program, their bearings or gliders can jam, increasing the force required to operate them. The following solutions can help employers control risks to employees opening and closing heavy doors. These solutions may help eliminate or reduce the risk of employees developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).
Solutions are listed in order, from those considered most effective to those considered less effective.
Employers should make sure employees use the handling solutions with the least risk, so far as reasonably practicable.
Solutions with reduced risks are an alternative only if least-risk methods are not reasonably practicable.
Employers should start implementing risk controls for the heaviest or highest-volume products first.
The following guidance also describes high-risk actions that can cause an MSD. Employers have a duty to eliminate or reduce the risk of MSDs so far as is reasonably practicable, and should make sure employees do not perform high-risk actions, if practicable.
So far as reasonably practicable, employers must consult with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) when identifying hazards and providing risk control measures. Consultation should include discussions about how employees will open and close heavy and difficult doors, making sure that risk control measures do not create new hazards. WorkSafe has guidance on consultation, including consultation with HSRs.
Opening and closing heavy and difficult doors
High-risk actions that can cause an MSD
- Using high force applying uneven, fast or jerky forces during pushing and pulling.
- Exerting high force while in an awkward posture.
Potential source of risk
- Doors that are heavy and difficult to move.
Preferred solutions with the least risk
- Power the current door.
- Install a mechanical aid, such as an automatic roll-fast PVC door.
Solution with a reduced risk
- Use lightweight flexible doors.
- Introduce a thorough maintenance program that examines and maintains the wheels, bearings or gliders of doors.
Your legal duties
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) requires employers to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as reasonably practicable. An employer contravenes this duty if they fail to:
- provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health
- make arrangements for ensuring, so far as reasonably practicable, safety and the absence of risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage or transport of plant or substances
- maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer's management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health
- provide, so far as is reasonably practicable, adequate facilities for the welfare of employees at any workplace under the management and control of the employer
- provide information, instruction, training or supervision to employees of the employer as is necessary to enable those employees to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
Employers also have an obligation to consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with employees and any HSRs on matters related to health and safety that directly affect them, or that are likely to directly affect them. This duty to consult also extends to independent contractors, including employees of the independent contractor, engaged by the employer in relation to matters over which the employer has control.
While at work, employees also have duties under the OHS Act to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions in the workplace. Employees must also co-operate with their employer's actions to make the workplace safe and comply with the OHS Act and Regulations.
The WorkSafe website has guidance about the occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibilities of employers and employees.
This information is from 'Manual handling in the food manufacturing industry: A guide for employers'. The complete guide is available in two formats.