Using trolleys in the food industry

This guidance may help employers control risks of injury to employees using trolleys in the food industry.


Use solutions with the least risk

Most food manufacturing sites use trolleys of various designs to transport materials and finished product safely. Trolleys can get heavy and difficult to push, increasing the risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). Floors may be slippery from residual water or spilt product, which makes it difficult to generate sufficient force to move a trolley and increases the risk of an injury from slipping and falling. Steep ramps or floors that are uneven can also increase the force required to move a trolley.

The following solutions can help employers control risks to employees using trolleys. These solutions may help eliminate or reduce the risk of employees developing an 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 use food trolleys, making sure that risk control measures do not create new hazards. WorkSafe has guidance on consultation, including consultation with HSRs.

Using heavy fully laden trolleys

High-risk actions that can cause an MSD

  • Pushing, pulling or dragging objects that are hard to move or stock for more than 30 seconds at a time for more than 30 minutes continuously or more than 2 hours over the whole shift.

    These actions may occur in the situations listed or in combination with other work activities.

  • Using high force applying uneven fast or jerky forces.
  • High force when pushing or pulling.

Potential source of risk

  • Heavy fully laden trolleys.
  • Trolley faults.

Handling solutions

Preferred solutions with the least risk

  • Use mechanised 'tugs' to transport substantial weights.
  • Change how the product is moved.
    • For example, change to a container that can be moved mechanically.
  • Use overhead cranes or other mechanical aids for moving product between close work areas.
  • Introduce automated or manual conveyors.
  • Use motorised mechanised trolleys.
Man using jack to lift a pallet
Using a mechanised tug to transport loads.
A conveyor belt moving trays along the floor
A floor conveyor for moving trays of product reduces the forces and improves postures during handling.

Solutions with a reduced risk

  • Reduce the weight of the trolley by changing to a lighter-weight trolley or reducing the amount of product on the trolley.
  • Ensure the trolley is designed for the specific task.
  • Ensure ramps are not too steep.
  • Introduce appropriately designed job rotation with other risk controls.
Man using a trolley with a tub in it.
Using a four-wheeled tub trolley.
Man using a reclining trolley to transport trays.
Using a four-wheeled reclining trolley.
A scissor trolley with buckets on top being transported.
Scales incorporating rollers used in conjunction with a scissor trolley. Note: Trolley positioned for illustrative purposes only. Normal operation is with trolley at the end of rollers.

Trolley hazards

Trolleys are a potential hazard source. The following information highlights potential hazards with trolleys and provides guidance on risk controls.



  • Poor trolley design results in a high centre of gravity so pushing over uneven surfaces may tip the trolley.

Risk controls

  • A height-adjustable spring or scissor trolley will allow loading at a good height and provide a low centre of gravity for stability when pushing.
  • Place heavier items at base to reduce centre of gravity.



  • No handles provided or handles are too low so employees apply force in awkward postures.

Risk control

  • Good handles provided. For example, vertical handles will fit a wide range of users.

Number of trolleys


  • Insufficient number of trolleys results in over-stacking available trolleys too high or exceeding rated loads.

Risk controls

  • Provide a sufficient number of trolleys, also allowing for maintenance and repairs.
  • Limit height to which trolleys can be stacked.
  • Have load rating marked on trolleys.

Castor/wheel choice


  • Flat tyres or flat spots make the trolley difficult to get moving when manually pushed or pulled.

Risk control

  • Solid tyres or tyres with adequate tyre pressure.


  • Small-diameter castors.

Risk controls

  • Large-diameter castors.
  • Low-resistance bearings.

Floor surfaces


  • Cracked, uneven or non-smooth floors can make trolleys harder to move and require more pushing forces.

Risk control

  • Inspections and regular maintenance to keep floor surfaces clean, smooth and well maintained.


  • Steep gradients on ramps increase the force needed to move trolleys.

Risk control

  • Ensure trolleys are handled on flat or low-gradient surfaces
    • where this is not possible, make the movement of trolleys a two-person job
    • reduce the load if a second person is not available


  • Wet floors create risk of slipping

Risk controls

  • Ensure floor surfaces are suitable for wet areas.
  • Ensure all spills are cleaned up immediately.



  • Dirty floors due to grease, residue, fats, oils, crumbs, etc. make it harder to move trolleys.

Risk control

  • Regular housekeeping to keep work areas clean and free of obstructions and trip hazards.



  • Damaged trolleys and castors make moving trolleys difficult.

Risk controls

  • Immediate removal for repair and replacement of damaged trolleys.
  • Implementation of a systematic preventative maintenance system for trolleys and castors.

The WorkSafe website has further guidance about choosing and using trolleys.

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.

Related pages

This information is from 'Manual handling in the food manufacturing industry: A guide for employers'. The complete guide is available in two formats.

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