This guidance may help employers control risks to employees whose work involves repetitive lifting and lowering to weigh products in the food manufacturing industry.
Use solutions with the least risk
Placing product on and removing product from scales involves repetitive lifting and lowering and is an avoidable 'double-handling' of product.
The following solutions can help employers control risks to employees lifting and lowering products for weighing. 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 weigh product, making sure that risk control measures do not create new hazards. WorkSafe has guidance on consultation, including consultation with HSRs.
Scales on the ground or below work height
High-risk actions that can cause an MSD
Bending the back more than 20 degrees, lifting or lowering and repetitive grasping:
more than twice per minute, 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.
High-force lifting, lowering or carrying heavy loads.
Exerting high force while in awkward posture.
Potential source of risk
Scales on the ground or below work task height.
Preferred solutions with the least risk
Automate the process. For example, robotic arms reject underweight products.
Integrate weighing scales within the conveyor process.
Use a pallet jack with integrated pallet weigher.
Conveyor with a built-in weigh station means product doesn’t have to be taken off and put back on the line to be weighed.
Where conveyors meet at corners the product can be pushed along automatically after weighing. The blue plate is the pusher in this photograph.
This conveyor fills, weighs and stitches without the need to manually handle the bags.
A pallet jack with a built-in weighing scale means the product can be weighed without taking it off the pallet.
Solutions with a reduced risk
Raise the height of the scales to the level of the benchtop so the product can be slid on and off.
Raise the product to the height of the scales.
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.
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.