Prevent and manage risk of physical injury in your medium or large business

How to identify physical health and safety hazards and implement effective risk management processes.



How this helps your business

When employees feel physically safe, they enjoy their jobs more, perform better, and are more committed to their employer. Keeping records of any safety issues, how much of a risk they are, and how you are fixing these problems shows your employees that you care about their safety.

It is well understood that physical injuries often have an effect on mental health as well. The more support your employees have, the more likely they are to get help for physical and mental health issues, and return to work if they have a long absence due to injury.

Key stats and facts


Over 40% of workers' compensation claims are related to manual handling injuriest

Muscular stress while handling objects was the leading cause of physical injury.

Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common work-related condition in Australia.

safework Australia, lifting, pushing and pulling (manual handling) 2020

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

Unfortunately, in 2018/2019 there were over 20,000 employees injured at work and tragically 24 people lost their life, this puts into perspective why it is crucial that all Victorian workplaces take a proactive approach to not only identify, but fix these hazards.

Physical injuries continue to be the greatest cause of injury to Victorian workers and some of the more common hazards that have resulted in workplace injury include:

  • Lifting, pushing and pulling heavy loads
  • Strain from repetitive tasks
  • And injuries from dangerous machinery and equipment (plant)

To get a better understanding of how your workplace can take action to prevent injuries from occurring, watch this short 2 minute video from Ben, an inspector at WorkSafe Victoria.

With over 40% of workers compensation claims related to manual handling, the second video will highlight the importance of addressing manual handling practices.

The first step to creating a mentally healthy workplace, is to first ensure you have identified and addressed physical health and safety issues . You will then be able to use the same methods to identify and prevent mental injuries from occurring. As you progress through the Toolkit we’ll guide you on how your organisation can manage these types of risks.

How to do your own inspection - Find the hazards

Hazardous manual handling - Is the work safe? Do I feel safe?

Step 2: Consult your staff

Talking to your employees about safety is not only a legal requirement, but it is also smart management. Your workers can be a huge help in improving workplace health and safety.

Regularly discussing health and safety issues with employees can help you identify issues in the workplace – before someone is injured.

A similar approach can be taken to mental health, and the Toolkit will support you to do this later on.

There are many ways you can talk with your employees about managing physical risks in your workplace, including:

  • formally through meetings and having OHS as an agenda item at your regular meetings. These could be 'toolbox talks', production meetings, staff meetings or any way your organisation communicates with each other
  • casually walk around your workplace with your staff
  • through your health and safety representatives
  • through your health and safety committees
  • intranet systems
  • web based applications such as Skype and Zoom

Using the Hazardous Manual Handling Compliance Code will assist you to identify activities in the workplace which may include hazardous manual handling. Identifying all these activities and adding them to your hazard or risk register will help you to consult on the best ways to control the risk of injury.

Step 3: Keep records

Keeping a record of injuries or near misses lets you and your leaders review the risks in your workplace. You will be able to see trends that you can work on developing solutions with your employees to stop them from happening again.

Every workplace should have a Registry of Injuries; this can be as simple as a diary or a more sophisticated online injury recording tool. We've provided a Register of Injuries template below which can help your workplace better manage record and prevent injuries.

Step 4: Identify the hazards

Complete the Safety Action Plan template below to record any safety issues or hazards, including those that have the potential to cause harm.

Make sure that you add any hazards from the above Registry of Injuries and also review any additional workplace data that can provide insights into potential injuries; this could include information from hazard identification processes, WorkCover claims, incident reports or employee feedback.

Like in step 2, it is important to consult with your employees to make sure you and the workplace aren't missing any potential safety issues or hazards. So record any concerns or insights from your employees and add it your safety action plan.

Step 5: Assess the risks

After you've made your list of possible issues, you can make a judgement about how serious they are and decide which ones need to be dealt with most urgently.

When looking at an issue, take a close look at the below and consider:

  • What could happen if things go wrong?
  • Are we talking about scratches and bruises, or could someone be seriously injured or even killed?
  • Is it an everyday thing, or something that only comes up now and then, giving you more time to find a solution? Are there things you can do right now, as a short-term fix, while you work out a permanent solution?
  • Do we have any items of plant (machinery), vehicles, tools that could cause injury?
  • Once you've worked out which issues have the greatest potential to cause injury or disease, or are a risk to public safety, mark them as your high priority issues, after that, rank them in order from highest to lowest priority.
  • Your list should be regularly reviewed and updated, you and your employees need to continually monitor every aspect of your workplace and make sure any potential new safety issues are immediately identified.

Use the risk assessment template found on page 23 of the below resource to help you get started on addressing the risks and hazards in your workplace.

Step 6: Manage the risks

When you've worked out which safety issues are most urgent, you need to start immediately on the most important step of all – fixing the problems.

Remember, you can take the same approach for risks to mental health. As you use your Toolkit you'll be better placed to identify these and understand what kind of action you can take to protect your employees.

Using the hierarchy of controls, the aim is to eliminate the hazard and risk completely, if this is not possible then you need to find ways to control it to reduce the risk as much as possible. You might have to change the way certain jobs are done, change work procedures, or at a minimum provide employees with protective equipment (PPE).

You'll often find there are simple solutions to many of the risks in your workplace. Most of them will be low cost, and some will cost nothing at all. Of course, sometimes there are no simple solutions.

Check WorkSafe Victoria publications, alerts and guidance notes for your industry/topic and see if there's a solution to the problem, and reach out to associations or groups that are related to your particular industry. They might have come across a similar problem before and found a way to fix it.

It is crucial to train your employees in all Occupational, Health and Safety procedures, ensuring that all new staff receive training and provide refresher training regularly for those in your workplace. Manage your rosters with safety in mind, consider previous work hours when allocating work and tasks. Being tired and or fatigued can increase the likelihood of injury.

For further details on how you can use the hierarchy of controls, risk control plans and specific industry guidance click on the below resources.

More information

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.