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WorkCover. Watching out for you.

This publication contains information regarding occupational health, safety, injury management or workers compensation. It includes some of your obligations under the various workers compensation and occupational health and safety legislation that WorkCover NSW administers. To ensure you comply with your legal obligations you must refer to the appropriate Acts. This publication may refer to WorkCover NSW administered legislation that has been amended or repealed. When reading this publication you should always refer to the latest laws. Information on the latest laws can be checked at or contact (02) 9238 0950 or 1800 463 955 (NSW country only). WorkCover NSW






CASE STUDY 1 CASE STUDY 2 CASE STUDY 3 Innovative designs reduce manual handling at Australia Post Reduce the load, avoid back injury and save money Purpose-built chairs improve manual handling of aged residents in health care institution Dispensing cleaning chemicals safely Better ways of handling chickens at a supermarket deli Storing things the easy way Moving and loading a potential source of back injuries Mechanical aid to assist movement of floor polishing machines High stacking from the yellow trolley Built-in fuel tanks replace 200 litre fuel drums Handling garbage the easy way Plate glass handling frame Using heavy tools can strain the arms and back Laying paving blocks by machine New linen trolleys reduce hospital manual handling risks Implementing a manual handling program RTA Innovative trailer design saves backs Step backwards for safety Chemical storage and diluting system for cleaners Patient handling a weighty problem Product packaging identified as a manual handling risk Reorganisation of stock assembly area eliminates unsafe work practices Right equipment for wet-mopping reduces manual handling injuries Redesigned clothing for residents means less bending and twisting for staff Employee invents back-saving breadroom trolley Lighter blocks for building reduces backache Special bins reduce manual handling, save storage space and time Truck modification solves jackhammer problem Lifting gully grates Sydney City Council finds a better way Moveable, hinged ladder provides safer access to truck trays Eliminating drilling into concrete ceilings reduces strain Cashier workstation redesign: risk management approach


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Australia Post is one of the largest road transport operators in Australia, handling tens of thousands of mailbags, letter trays and other items every day. In the past these mail bags and letter trays were handled manually at post offices and mail centres. This often required repetitive bending, twisting and reaching while lifting loads of up to 16 kg into and out of trucks and vans.

This manual handling task has now been significantly reduced with the introduction of the Folding Unit Load Device (FULD), a stackable steel mesh container that is lifted and moved by forklift, even at centres where there is no loading dock. A further innovation is a pneumatically operated device developed by Australia Post (NSW) for securing the FULDs in trucks. The device is basically a steel channel, suspended from the roof of the truck that descends to clamp down the FULDs in the truck. With this invention Australia Post is eliminating the use of shoring bars (pogo sticks). These are spring-loaded telescoping poles that are widely used in the road transport industry to restrain loads, but their use requires forceful manual handling action in awkward postures.


These and other innovations in the transport and associated operations areas have helped to reduce the incidence of manual handling related incidents in Australia Post NSW by up to 17 per cent in one financial year. The changes have also resulted in a more efficient transport operation with faster turnaround times.

FULD with sides up

FULD with side down



Lifting and carrying heavy loads are common causes of back injury. The good news is that some products and materials can be purchased in smaller sizes. Using smaller-sized products can reduce back injuries at work and save you money in the long term.


The size and weight of bags of cement have come under scrutiny at work for occupational health and safety reasons. Many workers find the standard 40 kg cement bags cumbersome and difficult to manage and they can be a cause of injury. Forty kilograms is clearly an unsafe load for many workers, and as guidelines in the National Code of Practice for Manual Handling state the risk of back injury

increases significantly with objects above the range of 16-20 kg and as weight increases from 16 kg up to 55 kg, the percentage of healthy adults who can safely lift, lower or carry the weight decreases.
Although 20 kg bags have been available for a few years, some employers are reluctant to change their purchasing habits, so they continue to order 40 kg bags.

The safety coordinator at Integral Energy assessed the causes of back injuries by reviewing accident records as well as consulting and observing workers on the job. He found that the major cause of back injuries was the handling of 40 kg cement bags by crew members erecting power poles for Integral Energy.

Using 20 kg cement bags can reduce back injuries

The safety coordinator knew that smaller and lighter cement bags were available on the market but they were more expensive than the standard 40 kg bags. His calculations showed that the extra cost of buying the smaller bags was between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. However, this cost was equivalent to the cost of just one workers compensation claim for a back injury. This evidence enabled him to persuade management to purchase smaller cement bags. The benefit of spending more money to buy smaller bags of cement will decrease future economic and human costs for Integral Energy.


The workers fully supported the change to the lighter bags, although there were early experiences when workers were seen carrying two bags of cement instead of one. It took a small number of workers some time to appreciate that it was acceptable to carry only one bag at a time.


Aged persons or patients recovering from a period of incapacity (eg. hip fractures) have difficulty getting in and out of many standard-design chairs. In such situations, health care employees may be called upon to help. Many low-profile chairs, while appearing comfortable for the patient, have the potential to injure employees helping patients in and out of these chairs. Many off the shelf reclining armchairs, besides having a low profile, are also heavy, making it difficult for employees to move them. This may also contribute to manual handling injuries.

Employees and management of a medium-sized health care institution, which incorporates an aged care hostel, recognised these problems and sought the assistance of the health and safety committee to find a solution. The committees investigation resulted in the hospital obtaining purpose-built chairs to solve these problems. The chair is lightweight, partly due to its hollow metal tube frame. The legs of the chair are height adjustable when the chair is empty. This makes getting into and out of the chair much easier for patients or employees assisting patients. The chair is not designed to transport

Patient in purpose-built chair

patients, however, two castors are fitted to the rear legs to assist staff when moving an empty chair. The chair also incorporates a table top/tray, which is stored under the seat when not in use.

The introduction of the new style of chair has reduced manual handling risks when staff are placing patients in, and getting patients out of, chairs. This lightweight chair, is strong, easy for employees to manoeuvre, and comfortable for patients.
Case study courtesy of Share Solutions (MH54), Health and Safety Organisation, Victoria


Cleaners often risk injury when they have to lift heavy drums of cleaning chemicals. This happens when they need to lift the drums from the floor and onto a table in order to dispense the chemical from the tap or, even worse, have to lift and hold the drum to pour the contents into another container. Cleaning staff at Sutherland Hospital identified this as a problem.

To solve the problem, staff at Sutherland Hospital went straight to the chemical company that produced the cleaning chemicals. When the company heard about the problem they provided a dispenser that could pump the contents from the drum while the drum remained on the floor. As well, the contents were dispensed in measured amounts. This not only reduced the manual handling significantly, but also reduced the chemical wastage. Recognising that the hospital was a long-term customer, the company provided the special dispenser free of charge. Companies often have solutions to problems people have using their products, so it may pay to confer with them. Their experience and expertise may lead to a quick solution.
Chemical dispensing system


Handling tubs of fresh chicken was identified as a significant manual handling problem in the deli section of Coles Supermarkets. This problem was identified through observation and consultation with staff. In the larger stores, staff would handle more than two tonnes of chickens a week.

Assessment showed that tubs of chickens, weighing 15 20 kg each, were delivered onto standard double-decker trolleys in the loading dock, wheeled to the cool room and then manually unloaded and placed on the floor in stacks up to and above shoulder height. This involved twisting, bending and reaching actions that were hazardous in combination with the weights involved. From the cool room, the tubs were manually carried or dragged to the bench where chickens were prepared for cooking. Leakage of liquid from the tubs added a slip hazard to the manual handling problem.

A number of solutions were considered, including smaller tubs or more staff, but these solutions would have added to costs and not solved the leakage problem. Finally it was decided to reduce the double handling by providing enough purpose-built trolleys. The idea was to be able to leave the tubs on the trolleys in the cool room and only wheel them to the preparation area when required. A new trolley was developed for Coles by RPM Building Services and a prototype was tried out by staff. This trolley, which is now is use, has a drip tray in the base to overcome the leakage problem. Tubs of chickens are stacked directly onto the trolleys in the loading dock. This means that deli staff now only have to lift each full tub once (onto the preparation table) instead of three to four times as in the old system. The loaded tubs are never lifted from the floor. The OHS coordinator at Coles, Ross McCaskill, calculates that the cost of the new trolleys will be recovered in just over a year by improved efficiency and reduced injury costs. The new system will now be implemented in all Coles stores.
Chicken Trolley



A leading energy supplier significantly reduced the amount of manual handling and, as a result, reduced the risk of back injuries by a simple rearrangement of their storage systems.


The members of the organisations OHS committee were concerned that a large number of linesmen had been affected by back injuries. They were also worried about the heavy loads being lifted onto trucks by the linesmen. The most awkward items lifted were the timber crosses that sit at the top of power poles (cross-arms). The committee, in consultation with linesmen and management, reviewed the existing handling processes with a view to improving them.

The assessment revealed that the cross-arms were: manually handled three times before reaching the truck (from the main store to the material store then to the truck loading area) often stored on the floor (requiring bending or stooping to reach them) about 20 40 kg (making them a heavy load for most healthy adults).

Using pallets to keep material at waist height


It was decided to store cross-arms in the truck loading area instead of the main store. The storage height was increased by storing them on pallets at waist and truck height, rather than storing them on the floor. At this height the cross-arms could be slid from the pallets to the truck without any bending or lifting. These changes reduced the need to double-handle or carry out a low lift or a heavy lift of the cross-arms. After a three-month trial, the linesmen, OHS committee representatives and management recommended construction of permanent storage in the truck loading area. The successful rearrangement of the storage of the heavy and awkward cross-arms has been duplicated in the storage of concrete stay blocks and bags of cement. These are now stored on elevated platforms, close to the loading area, with the resultant benefits of reductions in bending, stooping and double handling.




Ferrero Australasia Manufacturing Pty Ltd, Lithgow, has been able to reduce back injuries caused by moving products and stores from pallets to shelves, from pallets to production lines or just unstacking stock.


Moving products and stores from pallets to shelves, from pallets to production lines or just unstacking stock, are common sources of back injuries. These tasks typically require the worker to bend or crouch to reach stores on floor level as well as reaching across to the back of the pallet. In these positions neither the back nor the arms are working efficiently or safely, and in crouching to low levels the knees are stressed. The management of Ferrero, believing that there was a potential problem with the existing system of work, carried out an assessment of the factorys manual handling procedures.

Assessment of the manual handling risks involved observing the tasks and consulting the workers. The workers had to reach down to lift boxes off the base of the pallet. They also tended to bend and twist to reach boxes from the rear of the pallets. The workers considered this task a nuisance and reported that it was faster and simpler to bend and reach the rear of the pallets instead of walking around them.

A few ideas were tested before an acceptable solution was found: 1. One partial solution was using a commercially available spring-loaded scissor lift that supported the pallet. When each layer of product was removed from the pallet the springs would bring the pallet up higher. This lift allowed the product to remain at a more comfortable height. This device solved some of the problems, but some refinements were needed.
Electrically operated scissor platform


2. The final solution was using an electrically operated scissor platform. The features that made this the best option were that: it was easier to adjust the platform height it was easier to move the platform between sites as it was on wheels a turntable on the platform allowed easy access to products on different sides of the pallets.

This platform has now been in use for seven years. The company believes that they have had a terrific return on this investment in terms of both safety and money. The equipment has reduced some of the major contributing factors to back injury. The workers do not have to bend to reach low loads or twist to reach loads in awkward positions.



A government department wished to reduce the risk of back injury to school cleaners caused by the manoeuvring of heavy industrial floor polishers or buffing machines up and down flights of stairs.

The concept of the stair trolley was adapted to suit an industrial floor polishing machine by fitting a set of three wheels to each side of the machine. The device incorporates a specially designed fold-back axle to enable the wheels to be moved out of the way when the machine is in use. The Easy Wheels can be used with a wide range of polishers.

The machine is easier to manoeuvre up and down stairs than a conventional floor polisher, and reduces the possibility of operator injury.
Case study courtesy of Share Solutions
(MH38) and Health and Safety Organisation,


Specially designed floor trolley



Loading shelves at a major supermarket often meant lifting stock to shelves just below ceiling height. Stock had to be loaded onto trolleys that were wheeled into place and then stock placed on the shelves. An ongoing review of stock control and manual handling at the supermarket chain showed that the two-level red trolleys that had been used in the stores for many years caused problems with the manual handling of stock. The Health and Safety Manager Design and Warehouse, and the National Design and Development Manager decided to look at the problem and come up with a better solution.


While undertaking the process of hazard identification, risk assessment and control, the team enlisted the help of operational managers, an ergonomist, the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Sydney, representatives of NSW retailers, the Australian Institute of Supermarkets, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and WorkCovers Rural Team. The team also used procedures developed through their Step Towards Excellence Program, along with interviews with staff who used the trolleys and observations made in the stores.

The process led to a new inventory control system that is expected to reduce the double-handling of stock, lower the height of stock in the top level fixtures and improve access to stock on the highest fixtures through the invention of the Yellow Trolley. The Yellow Trolley will improve stock handling and lead to increased safety through its special design features. Improved features include: angled ladder with rails, to improve access to the upper deck textured rungs and upper platform surfaces, to reduce the risk of slippage lowering the height of the top deck, to improve trolley stability gate on the upper platform, to prevent staff from falling off tension-compression gate mechanism located under the top deck, to reduce pinch points and protrusions and control the gates swing velocity brake mechanism designed to be effective on uneven surfaces, with improved access and operation castors aligned with guard rail and periphery of top deck, to improve stability increased trolley width, to improve stability bumper bar surrounds trolley base, to reduce lower limb injuries


mesh sides, to prevent climbing on trolley and allow unobstructed vision when moving trolley

upper deck rails are 900 mm high, to comply with AS 1657-85

stock step located at end of trolley, to provide resting place for stock that is being passed up or down. This removes need to reach over upper deck rails, or to bend and reach under rails.

A training program, standard operating procedures and a training evaluation program have been developed by the Health and Safety Manager, in consultation with retail team members. The package will be evaluated as part of the trolley trials, with the assistance of the retail training group.


The new trolley design

The Yellow Trolley is being trialled in a number of NSW stores, in conjunction with the training package. Evaluation will include a comprehensive risk assessment, incorporating observation of the trolleys in use, interviews, questionnaires and accident/injury data.




Loading and unloading heavy fuel drums were sources of manual handling problems for the Evans Shire Council (Bathurst) until they changed to a custom-made built-in fuel tank in their vehicles.


The original system required operators to manually load 200 litre drums of fuel on vehicles (usually utes) and drive them to remote sites. Then they rolled the drums off the vehicles, lifted them upright, manoeuvred them close to the plant and hand pumped fuel from the drums into the plant. Fuel operators often reported back pain after manoeuvring the 200 litre drums despite careful handling. It was particularly awkward during cold mornings when frost covered the drums and made them too slippery to grip. This heavy, awkward and difficult task was accepted by the operators as just part of their job. Discussions between fuel operators and the Engineering Department of the Council resulted in a decision to find an easier way to refuel plant without exposing the operators to such a high risk of injury. The main risks were: the weight of the load and the force required to move it the awkward postures adopted by the operators when manoeuvring the drums the difficult work environment in the field.

A number of methods of loading the drums onto utes were trialled including the use of a mechanical grab, attached by a chain and a D shackle to the bucket of the yard front-end loader. The grab had a scissor action, which clamped onto the top rim of the drum allowing it to be lifted onto the utes. This system was satisfactory in the yard but it still meant that the drums had to be manually handled in the field.


The council arranged for built-in fuel tanks to be custom made for vehicles transporting fuel to plant in distant locations. The new arrangement eliminated the need to manually handle 200 litre fuel drums. It made the task safer, faster and easier to complete. The council also replaced hand pumps with electric pumps.

Manoeuvring 200 litre drum causes back problems



Wheelie bins (two-wheeled, 240 litre rubbish bins) have made life easier for many of us at home saving us from carrying heavy loads. But at some worksites, emptying these wheelie bins into rubbish skips without any assistance is not an easy task. School cleaners have identified this task as a potential cause of back injury.


Cleaners in NSW have reported a large number of back injuries with 204 male workers and 305 female workers reporting back injuries in the 2000/01 financial year.

The OHS officer of the ALHMWU consulted the cleaners, their employers, and WorkCover NSW during the risk assessment process. The employers represent some of the largest contract cleaning companies in Sydney that employ school cleaners (Berkeley Challenge, Menzies Property Services and Tempo Services), and they have supported this health and safety initiative.

In assessing the task of manually emptying the wheelie bins, the following risk factors have been noted: weight of the total load (which varies considerably, but is often more than 25 30 kg) twisted and bent posture reach required to bend below the knee with one hand to grip the base of the bin and reach up to grip the top of the bin with the other hand uneven load on the spine due to the asymmetrical posture lifting the load above shoulder height.

There are now a number of new devices on the market that reduce the need for cleaners to lift the bins. The solutions range from simple mechanical devices using gas struts, to electrically operated hydraulic lifters complete with fully enclosed safety cages.


Check each sites specific requirements

Before rushing off to buy a bin lifter, the OHS coordinators and cleaning company managers recommend the importance of assessing each worksite. It is necessary to check exactly what each sites specific requirements are as there is not one solution that fits every site. Some of the issues that need to be addressed when selecting a bin lifter include: terrain around the dumpsters (is it a rough dirt track or a smooth concrete path?) size of the dumpster eg. 1.5 cubic metre dumpsters are lower than three cubic metre dumpsters frequency that the wheelie bins need to be emptied the type of rubbish to be carried security issues users of the devices.
A bin-lifter in use

Consultation between management and the user is critical to ensure the right purchasing decision is made. The equipment suppliers may also offer a free trial to check if the lifter is appropriate for the task in mind, and they can generally advise if any custom-made modifications are required. With a consultative approach and continuing evaluation by management as well as the cleaners, a successful solution can usually be found.



The National Gallery of Victoria has many glass display cases. When it is time to alter or remove the display, the front pane of glass has to be removed. The procedure involved attaching several suction cups to the frame and then sliding it out of its track and lifting it to a safe storage position. When the display case was ready to be sealed up, the reverse procedure took place. All glass panes were picked up and lifted by hand into position. The size and weight of the glass made it awkward to lift. The task required several people. A serious accident could occur if one of the lifting team tripped, lost their grip on the suction cup, or the suction cup came unstuck from the glass.

The gallery established an investigation team to research the issue. The team included the health and safety representative, two gallery assistants, the Chief Conservator and the Curator. A hazard identification and risk assessment of the tasks involved were undertaken. The Gallerys health and safety officers consulted various experts in manual handling and glass products. After extensive consultation and development a special glass handling frame was developed.

Glass handling frame


The frame has several internal castors so that staff can slide the glass panel into the glass frame and out with minimal effort; the glass always remains secure. The frame sits on a hydraulic lifting table so that its height can be adjusted to that of the cabinets.

The glass handling frame and hydraulic lifting table have eliminated the need for staff to manually lift and carry heavy glass panels with suction caps. Because the glass is held securely by the frame, the risk of injury, should the glass shatter or break, is significantly reduced. There have been no reported sprain or strain injuries since the introduction of the frame and an added benefit is that staff can change the displays much more quickly.
Case study courtesy of Share Solutions (MH114), Health and Safety Organisation, Victoria.




Manual handling injuries are generally associated with lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling. Using force to hold or restrain objects is another aspect of manual handling but it is often overlooked. Workers using heavy tools or machinery are at risk because of the strain they place on their backs and arms. One example of this sort of manual handling problem is using chainsaws.


Tree trimming crews at Integral Energy are responsible for keeping branches and foliage away from overhead power lines. The crews use petrol chainsaws to trim the branches while standing on elevated work platforms (commonly known as cherry pickers).


An analysis of the crews accident and injury records revealed that a large number of musculoskeletal sprains and strains to the shoulders and back were being experienced by tree trimmers. It was also clear from observing the task and consulting with the crews that it would be necessary to make the task physically less demanding.

Manual handling risk factors on analysis of the task are as follows: the chainsaw/tool is held away from the body the tool is heavy the worker has to adopt a twisted, constrained or bent posture the work environment and layout cannot be controlled the task is performed for a long time.

New long-handled lightweight saw


The main problems include the weight of the tool and the posture adopted by operators when trimming the trees. The operators tend to lean out of the elevated work platforms with the chainsaw held away from their bodies to reach the branches to be trimmed. Operators working in certain postures can affect the chainsaws kick-back safety brake. If the operator works with arms angled down, the kick-back would work, but in some awkward and twisted postures it was ineffective.

A new type of chainsaw was trialled to reduce the manual handling problems affecting the tree trimming crews. These chainsaws are powered by the hydraulic power take off on the trucks instead of petrol. The advantages of these hydraulic chainsaws are as follows: lighter weight longer handle (making it possible to take some load off the operator by resting the chainsaw handle on the edge of the bucket) quieter than petrol chainsaws easier start mechanism fewer moving parts so less maintenance time.

The crews and safety personnel recommended the purchase of hydraulic chainsaws for the tree trimming crews after using this chainsaw for five years.




Bricklaying and blocklaying are recognised as trades with a high risk of back and shoulder injury due to repetitive lifting, frequent twisting and bending. Laying of paving blocks has the added risk of being done at ground level, requiring work to be done in a sustained bent posture. Experienced paving block layers typically lay about 1,500 blocks (35 to 40 square metres) per day. A worker in a bent posture handles about six tonnes per day (with each block weighing 4.2 kg). Workers are also required to lift and carry pavers from the delivery pallets to the place where the pavers are being laid.

As with many tasks in the building industry, the risks of manual paving work are easy to identify but it is hard to develop other ways of getting the job done. However, a fully mechanised system for laying of pavers has now been developed by Segmental Paving Services Pty Ltd of Sydney. This system has eliminated nearly all the manual handling in the job. The system uses a laying machine that picks up a 1.25 square metre slab of 50 blocks from a stack, and then puts them down in the correct position on the ground. The stacks of blocks, with each layer already arranged in a herringbone pattern, are automatically assembled on pallets by another machine off site and then delivered ready for the laying machine. Manual handling work is further reduced by using a pavement cutting saw to trim the edges of the herringbone pattern after laying, rather than trimming each block separately before laying.

Paver laying machine


Paul Junghans, developer of the system and managing director of Segmental Paving Services, says the mechanised system is most applicable for laying large, heavy duty paved areas such as airports and transport depots, where thousands of square metres of paving are required. The machine can lay paving at a rate of more than 2,000 square metres per week equivalent to ten people laying by hand. Eliminating manual handling work through automation and mechanisation is the most effective way of reducing the risk of manual handling injuries. This block-laying system provides an example of how clever thinking and mechanisation can be applied to traditionally labour intensive work in the construction industry. The mechanised system reduces risks as well as improving productivity and the quality of the finished work.




A large number of back injuries in non-nursing hospital workers can be attributed to pushing, pulling and loading or unloading trolleys. These injuries are mainly caused by muscular stress or slips and falls. A detailed study of linen trolley design was undertaken in 1994 by Jules Potiki at Sydneys Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with a view to identifying problems and overcoming them with improved trolley design. Mr Potiki surveyed existing trolleys and found that pushing and pulling forces for laden trolleys were frequently high, especially when: starting a trolley when the swivelling wheels were not pointing the right way using trolleys on carpeted floors (about 50 per cent more force is required than on vinyl) moving trolleys up ramps (a slope of only 2.6 increased the force required by 400 per cent) moving trolleys over a bump or gap in the floor surface, such as moving the trolley into a lift.

Trolleys with improved designs were developed at the hospital through a consultative process involving staff of the linen services, engineering services, and a trolley manufacturer, in order to arrive at a new trolley specification. A prototype was made and tried by staff, leading to some modifications that were included in the final design.

New linen trolley fully open side when straps are removed allows access to load with minimum reaching and bending


The new fleet of trolleys has the following features: no more than 4 kg force is needed to push the trolley in a straight line on a hard, smooth floor surface handle height is between 940 1,000 mm, ie. about elbow height wheel diameter is 200 mm. (the large diameter wheels have less rolling resistance and are less affected by bumps and gaps in the floor surface) loads in the linen trolleys are restrained by lightweight removable straps (replacing heavy metal gates) that allow loading/unloading with minimum bending and reaching. Together with improvements to floor surfaces and work practices, the new trolleys have reduced the risk of manual handling injury. Mr Potiki estimates that if the new designs halve the cost of trolley related accidents (and early indications are that they could do better than this), then there will be a saving of about $15,000 per year to the hospital.



The Sydney Region of the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) employs more than 2,000 people and its worksites are located throughout Sydney. This case study outlines the process of designing and implementing a manual handling program by the organisations occupational health and safety unit.

Sydney Regions occupational health and safety staff assisted in designing and carrying out the program, which was facilitated by a special projects officer. The RTA began by gaining the commitment and involvement of management. This task involved informing branch and senior management about the aims, objectives and reasons for the program. Once management was convinced of the merits of the program, the first phase of the program was launched.


The process had to be phased into the organisation because of the large number of workers and many different worksites. Priority was given to the area with the most manual handling incidents. The area with the highest incidence of manual handling injuries (the Operations Group) was determined by reviewing workers compensation records and accident data. The Operations Group consisted of Road Construction Services, Road Maintenance Services, Fleet Services, Traffic Services, and Bridge Services.


The OHS unit then sought the commitment and involvement of the workers. The unit realised that they had to have the support and input from workers to successfully resolve manual handling problems. Workers are generally best placed to identify the known or potential risks and they can provide practical risk control suggestions. A team of five or six representatives from various sections were nominated for a manual handling team from each of the services. The team included both management and staff.


The team members attended a one day training course developed by the RTA in conjunction with the Sydney Hospital Occupational Health and Safety Service.


The training program included detailed information on manual handling law, the risk management process and the practical aspects of performing hazard identification, risk assessment and control within the RTA Sydney Region. A case study involving practical risk assessment ensured that teams could understand and apply the process. In addition, a manual handling awareness training session (two hours) was conducted for other workers. This course looked at the main points outlined at the team training, provided an overview and showed their likely involvement in the manual handling program.


After workers compensation and accident records were reviewed, the team members were asked to identify other manual handling hazards, and to consult with their colleagues and supervisors to analyse tasks. Once the hazards were identified, team members assessed them using a checklist supplied by the occupational health and safety unit. Because of the large number of identified hazards, team members graded them into high, medium and low hazards and addressed the high risk activities first.


The teams developed manual handling hazards control strategies to be trialled. This process required the teams to meet regularly, either monthly or bi-monthly, to discuss and clarify issues and solve problems. A register of the tasks identified as hazards and the action plans were kept to ensure that issues were not forgotten and that all risk control measures were regularly reviewed.

The first phase lasted for about 12 months and a number of successful risk control measures were carried out. The RTA has not carried out a formal review of the manual handling teams activities. However, informal reports suggest that they have had a positive influence on reducing manual handling problems.

The RTA hopes to repeat a similar process with the Driver Vehicle Services Branch, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Toll Branch and Consultative Services Branch.



The Sydney Region of the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) organised and carried out a manual handling hazard identification, risk assessment and control program within its Operation Group (see case study 16). One successful solution arising from this process was a new system of transporting gear to roadsites, which reduced manual handling injuries.

The manual handling injures from loading and unloading trucks by the Road Patch Crews were identified during a thorough hazard identification process. A member of the Yennora Road Maintenance manual handling team identified this problem during discussions with the members of RTA depots. Manual handling injuries during unloading and loading of trucks were also identified as a problem from the accident and workers compensation data, anecdotal evidence and thorough observation of the task. The Road Patch Crews travel out to the sites in a five-tonne truck. Carried in the rear of the truck are all the signs, barriers, barrier stands, concrete blocks, 25 litre drums and a jackhammer. The crew would normally load and unload all of this equipment over the side of the truck. A worker was required to stand inside the truck to help load and unload. The greatest number of injuries were caused by lifting the jackhammers in and out of the trucks.

A number of risk factors were identified during the assessment of the task. These included: lifting heavy loads (more than 25 kg) lifting loads from ground level to over head height reaching up to pass loads over the side of the truck accessing items from the floor of the truck made difficult because of poor layout bending and twisting handling large, and awkward loads such as jackhammers and signs loading and unloading tools and equipment frequently.


The manual handling team decided to adapt an existing RTA trailer so that it could be custom fitted with shelving and slots to hold the various pieces of equipment at more convenient heights, and at the same time provide much easier access. The fitters at RTA were brought in to assist with the design


and construction of the new custom-fitted trailer. The new trailer now incorporates the following features to make the manual handling safer and easier: a bracket on the side, at about hip height, to hold the jackhammer vertical racks at waist height to hold new rubber blocks/feet for the signs a shelving system where signs are easily slid in and out a designated area to hold the 25 litre drums. Another solution involved replacing the concrete blocks that secure temporary road signs with rubber blocks, and changing the signs to a smaller lighter design. Additionally, improved ramps allowed workers easier access to the trailers. These solutions were accepted by management, as they could see immediate savings in terms of efficiency as well as potential savings in workers compensation because of a reduced injury rate. With managements support, the new trailer became a reality. This trailer has now been in operation for some time and is gradually being adapted as new and better ideas come up. The crews are aware of their important role in helping develop better and safer ways of doing things. The manual handling representative who coordinated this project believes it was successful because of the tremendous commitment and involvement of the crews and the rest of the manual handling team. Management was so pleased by the result that it made available a $15,000 grant to build a new trailer from the ground up, incorporating all of the improvements.
The new trailer with most loads accessible between knee and chest height



The association between back injuries and jobs involving heavy lifting and carrying is well known. However, what is not as well known is that drivers are also at risk of back injuries, especially when climbing in and out of their cabs. Some drivers have to climb in and out of their vehicles many times each day, and drivers of heavy vehicles have special problems because of difficult access to their cabs.

Integral Energy has almost half of its entire workforce working out of vehicles. About 15 years ago it was found that drivers had a large number of work injuries. A review of the companys accident statistics showed that drivers suffered a variety of injuries, including twisted ankles and back injuries. Further analysis revealed that: back injuries were the main injury the most common cause of these injuries was getting out of vehicle cabins and off the back of flat top trucks.

A project team with representatives from the companys transport and linesmen areas was formed to investigate the causes of injuries when drivers get out of vehicle cabins and off the back of flat top trucks. The assessment involved observing drivers climbing in and out of their vehicles. The risk factors identified by the assessment were that: the drivers generally jumped forwards out of the vehicles, rather than climb down the drivers jarred their backs jumping from a height onto mainly uneven ground the drivers seemed to have adopted this method of getting out of their vehicles because of inadequate foot and handholds. They had not been trained to use any particular method to leave their vehicles.

Since this problem needed immediate action, the project team agreed to a series of control measures. They knew these controls needed to be practical and simple if the operators were to stop this potentially dangerous practice. First, construct sufficient number of steps and handholds


The first stage was to ensure that each vehicle had a sufficient number of steps and handholds. This meant the construction of steps onto the backs of some trucks, adding wheel rim steps, and providing additional handrails for cabin access. Second, promote the controls The second stage was to publicise the best method to climb down. This was achieved using wall posters around the common areas as well as colourful stickers demonstrating the incorrect way with a red cross and correct method with a green tick. These posters and stickers were pasted in the cabin of each vehicle. In addition, slide and video presentations and discussions with the vehicle operators were organised. These presentations and discussions defined the problem and the reasons for the change.


The safety coordinator at Integral Energy claims that this initiative decreased the number of back injuries caused by alighting from vehicles by 99 per cent. This program entitled Step Backwards for Safety has been implemented by a number of other companies.

Dashboard sticker developed by Integral Energy



Centennial House is a large nursing home with over 200 residents. The home employs many cleaning staff to maintain floors, bathrooms and window surfaces and numerous cleaning detergents are used in this process. The chemical detergents, once stored in 25 litre drums, were heavy and awkward to lift and store. In addition, staff were required to move from floor to floor throughout the nursing home. No injuries were reported. However, management was aware of the potential for sprains and strains from lifting the heavy drums. There was also a high risk of injuries from chemical splashings, which could occur while cleaners decanted the chemicals into smaller containers.

The cleaning staff discussed the hazard with the environmental supervisor and assistant administrator. Management and staff undertook a hazard assessment of the tasks involved and investigated better ways of storing and handling bulk chemicals. After consultation with cleaning staff the nursing home purchased an Oasis chemical dispensing system. All bulk concentrated chemicals are now stored in one location on the lowest rung of the specially designed shelving system. They are connected to separate mixing containers located directly above by heavy duty PVC pipe. A water hose and trigger filler are connected to the local water supply. Fast flowing water creates a vacuum that draws the chemicals up to the mixing chamber. A one-way inlet valve allows a predetermined amount of the

A tower rack system holds chemicals for mixing and feeds them directly into cleaning buckets


concentrated chemical to mix with the water in the chamber, thereby taking the guess work out of diluting cleaning solution. The diluted solution can then be easily transferred to small bottles for use in other areas or into cleaning containers. The mixing chamber has an overflow pipe that is angled away from employees. Any overflow from the filling process is trapped in a spill tray.

Chemicals are now stored in smaller amounts. They are easier to carry and this process has reduced the risk of manual handling injuries. Because the system is totally enclosed, employees no longer come into direct contact with the concentrated chemicals. The risk of splash incidents has also decreased. The chemicals are colour coded to match the labels on the bottles and a colour-coded chart is provided for those who have low skills in written English to identify where the chemicals are used. This has reduced the risk of staff using or mixing inappropriate chemicals.
Case study courtesy of Share Solutions (MH12), Health and Safety Organisation, Victoria.



Hospital staff are concerned when an obese patient is admitted to their wards, anticipating problems with lifting and moving. Staff at Sutherland Hospital were doubly worried when not one, but two, obese (200 kg) patients were admitted on the same day, both scheduled for surgery within 24 hours and needing full patient care.


Fortunately, Sutherland Hospital had appointed a manual handling coordinator and instituted a manual handling program only a few months prior to the admission of the two patients. This meant staff didnt have to handle the situation as best they could, but could get help in assessing and controlling the problem. The manual handling coordinator met with the nursing unit manager and program manager to assess the situation and suggest solutions to control the problem. The first suggestion made was to ensure enough wardspersons were available to help with the lifting problem. The coordinator pointed out that this solution only transferred the problem to the wardspersons and that sufficient wardspersons might not be available when the patients needed to be lifted or moved.

Further discussion led to the suggestion of using an electric bed for one of the patients. This would reduce the risk on the ward by reducing sustained bending. The coordinator cautioned that this solution would only solve the problem in the ward. Wardpersons and surgical staff had to be considered when the patient had to be moved for surgery. After further discussion, surgical staff and wardspersons agreed to use the electric bed for all components of the patients care, significantly reducing the number of transfers and sustained postures. With only one electric bed available the group had to find another solution for handling the second patient. They decided a sling kept under the patient at all times (to avoid continual manual handling of the patient to position the sling), and a hoist permanently positioned nearby, would assist staff. However, since the hospital did not have a large enough sling, one was purchased.

The arrival of the obese patients forced the hospital staff to consider procedures to cope when this situation arose again. A new system will be implemented to require visiting medical officers to provide notification to the wards when patients are to be admitted who may increase the risk of manual handling injuries to staff. To ensure that proper equipment is on hand, the hospital appointed a small committee to select and trial a variety of hoists, taking into consideration both patient and staff requirements.



In even the best designed workplaces and with good knowledge of manual handling issues, workers can be in danger of injury by the goods or products they handle or use. Two retailers, who identified problems with some products, recently had wins when suppliers agreed to change their products to better meet the needs of the retailers.


A systematic process to identify jobs or tasks that are likely to cause manual handling injuries in large organisations include: recording and monitoring injuries and near misses seeking employees feedback about health and safety issues observing people doing their jobs.

Once the tasks are identified, they can be assessed and controlled to eliminate or reduce the risks. Listed below are two cases where systematic hazard identification, risk assessment and control was effective in eliminating manual handling injuries.


Employees help identify source of back and arm discomfort
Coles is one company that used the hazard identification process to good effect. Their delicatessen staff were experiencing back and arm discomfort. Delicatessen work requires doing a number of different tasks, so it was important to determine exactly which aspects of their work were contributing to the problems. From discussions with staff, the problem was narrowed down to preparing and slicing various smallgoods products.

Assessing task confirms the cause of back and arm discomfort

A risk assessment confirmed that the weight, shape and repetitive lifting and handling of the smallgoods caused the back and arm discomfort. The assessment showed that: smallgoods were supplied in boxes up to 27 kilograms the boxes were an awkward shape to comfortably manage the smallgoods were frequently lifted and handled so that staff could slice portions for customers.


Repackaged smallgoods reduce complaints of back and arm discomfort After discussing alternative ways to lift and carry the product, management and staff agreed that the best way to control the problem was to try to alter the size and shape of the smallgoods packaging. The aim was to achieve smaller and lighter loads that could be easily lifted and handled by staff. Coles involved the manufacturer of the smallgoods in finding a solution. After only a few meetings, the manufacturer agreed to alter the size, shape and weight of the smallgoods food. The introduction of the new product has reduced the number of reported incidents in the delicatessens. Coles staff report that manual handling is a lot easier since the change in product packaging.


Employees help identify difficulties with bulk packaged gravy
Chickadee Chickens, with outlets selling takeaway foods in major shopping centres, successfully collaborated with a manufacturer of gravy to change the bulk packaging of gravy. Chickadee Chickens staff identified a number of the foodstuffs supplied in bulk that caused manual handling problems. The bulk packaged gravy was often difficult to move to the storage shelf, and difficult to use. Bulk foods that can sit in a container on a shelf and have small portions taken by means of a tap or a scoop can be easy to handle but some products are more difficult to access.

Assessing task confirms the risks of lifting and carrying large bags of gravy
A risk assessment of the most difficult tasks showed that lifting and carrying large plastic bags of gravy had the most risks. The load was: too heavy for many workers at 25 kilograms awkward, as the bag had no handholds and the contents were unstable difficult to pour out into containers.

Repackaged gravy easier to manage

Chickadee Chickens consulted the suppliers and manufacturers of the gravy for a solution to the problem. The manufacturers, after several meetings, agreed to repackage the gravy. The gravy is now supplied in small, easier to manage bags and workers at Chickadee Chickens as well as workers in other industries manufacturing, transport, wholesale and retail have benefited.



Replenishing the stock used to assemble orders at Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (API) is a never-ending process, with obvious risks of back injury. Forklifts raised pallets of stock to the high-level bays behind the flow racking, then storemen moved these pallet bays to the flow racks. Semi-bulk stock was also stored on high shelves above the pallet bay. To prevent staff from falling from the rear of the high pallet bay area, a safety bar was fitted across the front of each bay with a safety harness attached. This meant that storemen needed to keep bending under the bar to access stock on the pallets before transferring the stock to the flow racking. The risks in this process include: frequent bending under the bar stretching to reach stock at the back of the pallet lifting while in a stooped posture twisting to work around the restrictions posed by the safety rope. Back injury statistics, observation of these activities and discussions with the storemen doing the work identified this activity as a serious manual handling risk.

The old system The new system. Now workers assembling stock can reach the stock easily



Good risk management emphasises that consultation with the workers involved is the best way to both identify the risks and provide effective solutions. At API, Chas Sinstead, one of the replenishing storemen, after being trained in manual handling risk assessment and control, recommended the following changes to the work system: modification to the storage racking to lower the high shelf down to the level of the safety bar, so that the shelf could take pallets of incoming stock use of existing ladder trolleys and grab poles to draw cartons from the rear of the pallets. The trolleys surface is the same height as the pallet, allowing cartons to be easily transferred from pallet to trolley placing semi-bulk stock, which is accessed infrequently, and not on a pallet, on the floor below the new pallet shelf. With this new system, the storemen can move the frequently-handled stock from the pallets at a comfortable height, while standing on the floor or on the ladder trolley, without use of the safety harness. Storing the infrequently used semi-bulk stock at the front of the lower semi-bulk location also reduced manual handling risks.


Carol Bates, OHS Officer at API, says that the changes greatly decreased the manual handling risk by reducing the need to bend, twist, reach and lift stock. The new method also reduced the need for forklift drivers to break pallets down before lifting the contents into storage, further reducing the manual handling risk to the drivers. Semi-bulk stock is now more accessible, so workers assembling stock can reach the stock without asking storemen to remove it from the high shelf where it was stored previously. The modifications to the storage racking cost very little, so the new system is both cost effective and efficient. After trialing the changes in one area, API is now adopting the changes in all similar areas. Chas Sinstead, the employee who recommended the changes, has been nominated for an excellence award in the companys Employee Recognition Award Scheme. Consultation with employees, an essential part of risk management of manual handling, has proved to be of great benefit to API.



Injury statistics show that wet-mopping by cleaners is a hazardous activity. One company, Tempo Cleaning Services, is working towards reducing the incidence of back injuries by reviewing the equipment being used and trialling new systems.


A review of accident reports and consultation with cleaners suggests that there are three main risk factors when wet-mopping floors. These are: 1. Lifting and carrying the bucket of water. The variables that may affect the likelihood of a back injury include methods of filling the bucket, type of bucket and the distance carried. 2. Slippery floors. Slippery floors pose a serious risk of slips both before and after mopping. It is not yet clear whether the slips are a result of water spillage, poor choice of footwear, speed, or a combination of factors. Since slips, trips and falls are the second main reason for back injuries across all industries, this needs investigating. 3. Posture and the movements used to mop different areas. Repetitive twisting and bending of the back are known contributing factors to back injuries, and both movements are common when wetmopping, particularly if space is restricted.


Tempos ongoing risk assessments have confirmed the three main risk factors listed above. The second risk factor (slippery floors) is especially a matter of concern in larger sites where there are many people milling around (eg. shopping centres). There is always the possibility of someone slipping if safety precautions are neglected.


Tempo has investigated a number of alternative mop and bucket systems to replace the traditional steel buckets, to use in large sites where there are many people present. The criteria for selection of the bucket system were: the weight the wringer mechanism used to wring out the mop the weight of the mop head and mop handle and the ease with which the two could be separated


the colour coding for infection control purposes

the way the mop and bucket system was going to be transported around the site.

Tempo looked at a number of different systems, including a variety of foot-operated buckets, quick-release mop heads and lightweight handle systems. The new equipment was trialled at a large retail centre for two months. A mop and bucket system was selected with the assistance of employees, supervisors and equipment suppliers. The system consists of a transportable bucket with a hand wringer mechanism that supports a wet floor sign and a basket for a dry mop head. The system is guided around the site using a lightweight aluminium handle. This handle is attached to a wet-mop head that can be changed with a drymop head for spot cleaning. All reports show that the system is working well. Staff find it practical, easy to manoeuvre, easier on the back and arms when wringing out the mop and with less risks of slips to both workers and the public.
Improved mop and bucket system



Dressing and undressing elderly residents causes serious manual handling risks. Staff at Baptist Community Services Waldock Nursing Home (Dementia Specific) successfully trialled clothing that allows easy and quick dressing and undressing of residents.


Nurses dress and undress residents frequently throughout a shift, particularly when assisting with toileting. Residents who are incontinent require a complete change of outfit many times throughout a shift. The staff at Waldock Nursing Home identified this task as a manual handling issue. The assessment of this task showed that: staff maintained awkward postures, such as bending to one side and twisting, for prolonged periods whilst supporting the resident and pulling on a pair of pants weight of the limb being supported was excessive dressing and undressing occurred frequently throughout the shift.


Some important features of the redesigned clothing include: openings of tops and dresses across the shoulders eliminates the need to lift arms up high back opening for trousers and dresses. This reduces the need to lean over or around residents velcro/press-stud openings for fast opening and closing using capes instead of jumpers and cardigans. This eliminates the need to lift arms.


Staff approved the use of these clothing after a successful trial period. Residents, particularly those receiving palliative care, found the new clothing comfortable.


The benefits include: less manual handling during dressing and undressing residents less time taken to complete task ability to quickly toilet resident residents more comfortable, suffer less strain less agitation from normally aggressive patients during dressing and undressing greater dignity for residents when being dressed as task is completed quickly fewer skin tears to residents fragile skin.

New adjustable clothing safer for staff and comfortable for residents.



The manual handling law requires employers to consult their employees to identify, assess and control manual handling risks. Employees are closest to the tasks and are able to provide ideas and insights that are valuable in solving problems at work. Furthermore, effective consultation usually increases employee job satisfaction, is generally cost effective and improves communication and morale within the organisation. An example of effective employee consultation is the invention, design and manufacture of a purpose-built trolley by Joseph Szanto, a breadroom hand.


Joseph Szanto is responsible for lifting and handling crates of bread ready for loading into the distributors trucks. A common practice in the industry is to lift and stack crates of bread on two-wheeled trolleys, wheel them to the track then lift and stack the crates on the trucks. After working in the breadroom for about 10 years, Joseph was developing back and knee pain. His co-workers were also having difficulty handling the crates.


The old trolley had several disadvantages. These were: levering and lowering the trolley, as it was only two-wheeled reaching down to floor level to pick up the lowest crates double handling crates, from the trolleys to the dollies carrying awkward and heavy loads, carrying five crates on the trolley.

Old trolley


Joseph Szanto was determined to improve the task, and make it easier and safer for everyone. He built a prototype after much thought and redesign. His training and work experience as a fitter helped Joseph build a sophisticated four-wheeled alternative to the traditional two-wheeled trolley.



The prototype successfully underwent trials in the breadroom to ensure it addressed the manual handling risks. The main features of the new trolley are: four wheels for improved stability a special release handle that lowers the crates onto the dollies capacity to carry 10 crates.

Since the first trial of the prototype, more than three years ago, there have been fewer injuries in the breadroom. Workers can handle more crates at once, but with less back and knee strain. More than 70 trolleys have been manufactured for use in the breadroom, and other bread manufacturers have bought replicas of the now famous (called Joe-a-matic) trolley.

The Joe-a-matic trolley a safer alternative



New lighter blocks are now available in the building construction industry. These blocks greatly reduce one of the back injury risk factors in blocklaying.


Laying concrete blocks has a high incidence of back injuries, particularly when laying lower course work (below mid-thigh height) and higher course work (above shoulder height). Blocklayers tend to work in awkward, twisted positions to lay blocks around pipes and other services. They continually bend and twist throughout the day while handling blocks, which are significant loads. The blocks are handled from the delivery pallets to the nearest position to the workplace, then handled again during the laying of the blocks. A 400 x 250 x 200 millimetre block weighs up to 14.2 kilograms. A risk assessment showed that repetitive bending and twisting while handling heavy blocks is a high risk for back injuries. The risk increases when laying blocks for the lower courses and while picking up the blocks. This risk assessment was carried out by a local blocklaying company in consultation with its employees.


A recently available alternative walling system, using autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC), seems to reduce a major risk factor associated with blocklaying. The AAC blocks are approximately a quarter the weight of conventional concrete blocks. Studies show that decreasing the size and the weight of the blocks leads to reductions in the load on the back and the energy required to lay the blocks. Another benefit of AAC blocks is the use of an adhesive glue, which is lighter than the mortar used to lay concrete blocks. Using the adhesive glue reduces the handling of the cement bags and mixing the cement mortar. Blocklayers report that the lighter blocks are much easier to use and cause less backache, compared with the conventional blocks.



Transferring goods from the order assembly area in the warehouse to the delivery trucks, and then to their retail outlets was a major manual handling problem for Repcos central store. Many of the destination retail outlets could not accommodate pallet-loads, and deliveries were often after hours. This meant that a large number of different sized and shaped loads had to be first packed into the delivery trucks by the storemen and drivers, and then unpacked and carried from the trucks into the retails stores without assistance. This amount of multiple handling of stock was inefficient for the company as well as a major manual handling risk for the workers.


Repcos Distribution Manager, Graham Hutt, solved the problem by introducing what might be called mobile pallets. Large (1,000 litre) plastic four-wheeled Otto bins were introduced in which all the stock for one store would be loaded. He first negotiated with the manufacturers to modify the bins, so that one side folded down to permit easy access for loading goods into the bin without excessive bending and reaching. Large diameter wheels permitted easy handling of the bins, even when full. As the Repco delivery trucks were all fitted with tailgate loaders, one person (driver or storeman) could easily wheel the loaded bin onto the truck, then off again at the destination without requiring assistance from pallet handling equipment or other workers. Awkwardly shaped stock, such as car mufflers, often didnt fit easily on pallets or in boxes. They can now be placed on top of the other stock in the large bins and wheeled along with the rest of the load.

One side of the bin folds down for easy access to the contents


At the destination, the bins are wheeled through the doors, locked if required (the lids permit securing with a lock), and left for the staff to unload the next morning. The empty bin from the previous delivery is collected and returned to Repcos central store for re-use. A bonus for the company and the workers is that the re-useable bins minimise the need for, and wastage of, materials such as cardboard boxes and plastic stretch wrapping, and the extra manual work involved in using these. A thorough, regular maintenance schedule for the bins is an important part of Repcos risk prevention program, to ensure that no additional manual handling risk is introduced by faulty equipment. This includes feedback from the bin users and regular inspections of the casing and wheels so that no excessive force is required to handle the bins.



For the bitumen-patching crew at Randwick Municipal Council, retrieving and storing a jackhammer on their truck had the potential to cause back injury. Fortunately, no one had been injured so far, but the potential for injury was obvious. The bitumen-patching crews determination to solve the problem combined with appropriate manual handling training resulted in safer retrieval and storage of the jackhammer.


The bitumen- patching crew use trucks to carry all their tools, materials and equipment for bitumen patching. The jackhammer was hung on a bracket on the chassis in a narrow gap between the back wheel and a frame that carries a vibrating roller. This narrow gap made it difficult to get close to the jackhammer, which weighs 36 kg. The only way the crew could lift the jackhammer onto a bracket, was with a jerky action with the back bent sideways.


At a manual handling training workshop, the bitumen-patching crew were shown how to identify and assess some of the potential causes of back injury at their work. The first manual handling problem identified by the crew was the location of the jackhammer on their truck. This problem had concerned them for a long time. Together with their supervisor and the truck maintenance workshop, the crew came up with a simple and economical solution.

Jackhammer in hard to reach position

New position allows jackhammer to be lifted without straining


Instead of hanging the jackhammer on a hook, they now slide it sideways into a large steel tube which is angled up a little from a horizontal position. The position of the tube allows the jackhammer to be held against the body at about waist height while it slides in or out. The modification (called the rocket launcher by the crew) has been an instant success and has been copied on a second bitumen truck.




Lifting gully grates and drain covers is a manual handling problem for councils everywhere. Gully grates have to be lifted regularly to clean out the drainage pits at the roadside with an adductor truck. The Council of the City of Sydney staff conducted a risk assessment, consulted workers and trialled some ideas before finding a solution where there was no need for manual effort.


The Council of the City of Sydney workers manually lifted gully grates, weighing 52 kilograms, using levers and hooks. The practice was responsible for a number of back injuries, hernias and crushed fingers. Some of these injuries were serious and resulted in a lot of time off work.
Lifting bar designed to lock quickly and securely onto grate


The Council conducted a manual handling risk assessment and consulted workers about possible solutions. Mechanical lifting was attempted initially with a cable attached to the boom arm that lifts the pipe on the adductor truck. This was not successful because of the limited lifting power of the boom, and the awkwardness of working around the adductor pipe. In addition, there were problems with the cable slipping on the bars of the grate, requiring manual effort to keep the grate steady while lifting and lowering.
Crane and electric winch at the back of the truck


After this trial, and with further consultation, it was decided to add a crane with an electric winch at the back of the adductor trucks and design a lifting bar that clamps onto the grate. The lifting bar, developed by Councils Equipment Management Unit, locks quickly and securely onto the grate and ensures that the grate stays level. Now there is no manual effort needed and no need for the workers to have their hands near the grate when it comes out. Lifting bars were made for the Council by John L. Robertson Pty Ltd and have a certified safe working load. The employees, who now use the system, are very happy with the outcome. The results show how a little lateral thinking can find simple and effective solutions to problems that may have plagued an organisation for a long time.



Poor access to cargo areas of trucks is a major cause of muscular stresses and strains as well as slips and falls. Often there are no steps on the truck because it is assumed that all loading will be done at a loading dock or by forklift, however, this is not always the case. Grab handles are not always located where they are needed. They are sometimes slippery and require considerable agility from the driver to swing up onto the truck tray. In addition, loads are often stacked flush with the edge of the truck tray, leaving insufficient room for the driver to stand on the tray. The driver must climb down, preferring to jump because its quicker. Jumping from the truck is particularly hazardous for the back as well as the ankles and knees.


Ken Dennis of Victoria has designed a moveable, hinged ladder, which can be stored on a rack under the tray or trailer.

Bandy Safety Steps

The ladder is known as Bandy Safety Steps. It can be retrieved from storage within seconds, and simply positioned for loading at any of the different locations around the truck. Because the ladder is relatively small and lightweight (around six kilograms), very little effort is involved in storing and retrieving, setting up for use, or moving from place to place around the truck or trailer. Steps such as these reduce the risks associated with climbing on and off trucks, often with loads, and doing other tasks around vehicles.
WorkCover NSW kindly acknowledge the South Australian Department for Industrial Affairs, the Technical University of Delft, WorkCover SA and Ken Dennis of Victoria for information in this article.



Innovative methods that eliminate the need to drill into concrete ceilings have recently been introduced. One method requires pre-placement of the metal anchors before the cement has been poured. Another method uses extendable tools and improved adhesives to place anchors after the concrete is set. Plumbers, fire sprinkler installers and electrical and communications cable installers find the new methods have many benefits, including less shoulder, neck and arm strain.


Plumbers, electricians, fire service installers and data communications installers are just a few of the tradespeople that drill into concrete ceilings to attach fixtures such as hooks for suspended ceilings or brackets to secure water pipes, electricity cables, data and communications cables. These tasks involve drilling numerous holes while coping with the hazards of working with ladders, electricity, dust and noise.

A risk assessment of the tasks found that prolonged arching backwards of the neck and back, as well as prolonged elevation of the arms when drilling and holding the drill, caused shoulder, neck and back strain. Other risk factors that may result in injury include: power leads from drills underfoot. This is a potential trip hazard. working on ladders. A large number of falls in the building construction industry are associated with working on ladders. These risks were identified and assessed by a Sydney plumbing company.


Two new methods that replace the need to drill holes into the ceiling were trialled recently. The first method sprays special primer on the ceiling using an extendable primer tool; the fixtures are then placed on the ceiling using an installation tool.


The second method places metal anchors or fall out hooks on the formwork plywood before the concrete is poured. Once the formwork is stripped the anchors and hooks are ready to use immediately.

The manual handling risks are reduced by eliminating the need to:
arch the back and neck for long periods hold the drill with the arm in an elevated position for long periods work on ladders trail power leads on the ground.

Other benefits include: less time to complete job less noise around the workplace reduced level of dust.

Extendable primer tool eliminates manual handling risks



Poor workstation design can contribute to musculoskeletal problems in workers. Workstations can impose debilitating stress and strain on workers posture; just as very heavy physical work can lead to back and arm injuries. It is the cumulative effect of these postures that is the problem. For example, workstations that are not at the correct height for workers: can cause forward bending while stooping and straining the back, if too low can cause workers to lift their shoulders and arms and in the process strain the arms, if too high.

If workstations are too small or too large, other problems can arise.


Cashier workstations in the retail industry are just one example of a workstation where the lack of height adjustment can cause problems. Workers compensation statistics, observing cashiers in action and discussing the task with workers suggest that working at a cashier workstation can contribute to musculoskeletal injury in some people. The main injuries are: back injuries because of bending, reaching for products and lifting bags occupational overuse of injuries in the arms and shoulders because of repetitive handling of products, often with shoulders elevated if the workstation is too high, or with arms reaching if the workstation is too large.


Detailed assessments by different organisations show the following risk factors: actions and movements there may be twisting and bending to the side to pick up products workstation layout some designs encourage reaching to the side to access bags working posture if the station is low for the cashier, the cashier will need to lean forward location of loads and distances moved varying demands, ranging from the cashier lifting items to or from a trolley to having a conveyor system bring in the product. Any cashier workstation identified as contributing to any type of manual handling injury must be individually assessed. Individual assessment is necessary to compensate for the stores unique design and the different skills and requirements of individual cashiers.


Other risk factors to consider during risk assessment are: weight and forces some single products are heavy, and bags can be overfilled making them too heavy characteristics of loads there may be slippery loads (frozen foods), bulky loads (bags of dried dog food), and awkward loads (pot plants) work organisation depending on staffing arrangements, there can be long queues of customers placing stress on the cashier work environment limited or cluttered floor space can restrict ease of movement duration some cashiers work for hours without an opportunity to change position or have a break skills and experience some work methods may be unsafe unless the cashier has good training and supervision. Additionally, some of the physical demands of the task may be beyond the capacity of the worker age some younger workers may not have the maturity or the strength to manage aspects of the task clothing tight clothing that restricts crouching and stepping. High heeled or slippery footwear can create problems when manually handling items special needs when assessing any workstation, it is important to take into account any special issues regarding the worker at the station. Do they have injuries? Are they in good physical condition to do manual work?


The designs for cashier workstations, have gradually improved over the years. Design considerations have taken account of the layout and the positioning of the hardware such as registers, scanners, scales, bag units and trolleys. Because retailers sell a variety of products and their customer and staff requirements also vary, there will not be one perfect workstation for every business. However, a number of features should be considered when redesigning cashier workstations. This company has taken active steps to review, redesign and trial their cashier workstations in an attempt to improve the work conditions for cashiers and customers. The company investigated cashier systems in Australia and overseas, conducted ergonomic assessments of the existing models, and consulted managers and workers. As a result of this process a range of risk control options are being investigated. Design options are being trialled in stores to find how well they fit the requirements of the task, and the cashiers.
New cashier workstations under trial


Some of the features being trialled include: wraparound style workstation to reduce the need for the operator to reach beyond a comfortable range conveyor guide to bring products closer to the scanning area multidirectional scanner to reduce the need to manipulate products to locate the barcode weighing scale incorporated into scanner to eliminate the need for repeated turning and reaching to the register unit bag-packing unit next to the scanner, so as to place products in the bag immediately after scanning increasing the size of the bag-packing unit to allow packed bags to accumulate while the conveyor is being loaded by the customer. This eliminates the need for cashiers to lift excess bags from the floor or over the top of the bag-packing unit sloping surface on the bag-packing unit allows the bags to slide towards the customer, reducing the need to lift and pass the bag to the customer a push button height adjustment of the cashier workstation.


Before the trials, staff were trained to use the new workstation (instruction was provided for staff to find the best work surface height for themselves). Ideally, the cashier workstation (the scanner and conveyor) should be positioned about 515 centimetres below the workers bent elbow. This may vary depending on the size of objects being handled. This position stops shorter workers from hitching their shoulders up to reach the products and taller workers are not forced to bend down to work. Consulting cashiers, customers and the store managers during the trial period is an important part of the review process. The design adjustment provides the important benefit of making workstations fit the worker, rather than trying to make the worker fit the workstation. Additionally, cashiers do not need to lift and pass bags to customers. This case study is a good example of the risk management approach to reducing manual handling injuries at work. Through this system of hazard identification, risk assessment and the development and trialling of controls, the supermarket has demonstrated understanding of the risk management approach and is aiming for continual improvement in its operations.

Contact the WorkCover Assistance Service on 13 10 50

This Guide is not intended to provide comprehensive information about the prevention of the occupational health and safety hazards set out in the Guide and does not affect a persons legal obligations under the

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000. Also, any reference to an employer in a case study does not
imply any endorsement or approval of the employer or their products.




GUIDELINE 1 GUIDELINE 2 GUIDELINE 3 GUIDELINE 4 GUIDELINE 5 GUIDELINE 6 GUIDELINE 7 GUIDELINE 8 GUIDELINE 9 Preventing injuries due to slips and trips Lifting safely from low levels Climbing in and out of trucks and plant Backbelts Manual handling training Guidelines for design and selection of trolleys Manual handling risk assessment Successful tips for manual handling training Checklist for evaluating mobile hoists


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Slipping, tripping and falling are common causes of injury at work and at home. Often the major cause of injury is not the fall itself, but the attempt the falling person makes to slow the fall or avoid obstruction on the way down. These wrenching or twisting movements can cause serious back injuries. In fact slips and falls are the second major cause of back injures after manual handling. Falls from a height usually result in more serious injuries, but slips and trips on a surface are far more common and account for more injuries. The main causes of slips and trips are: the type and condition of the floor surface contamination of the floor surface objects on the floor footwear being worn.

Prevention of slip, trip and fall accidents can be achieved by installing and maintaining good floor surfaces, and by improving housekeeping standards. Where it is possible to control the types of shoes that are worn, shoe selection can play a part in reducing risks.


1. The Regulation
In 2001 the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 came into force (at the same time as the new OHS Act). Part 4.3 (page 66) requires in clause 45(b) that an employer must ensure that: floors and surfaces are constructed and maintained to minimise the possibility of slips, trips and falls.

2. Australian Standards
The Australian Standard on the slip-resistance of pedestrian surfaces (AS/NZS 3661.1-1993) was issued in 1993. This standard required that the Coefficient of Friction for floor materials should be not less than 0.4 when measured by specified means (the Tortus floor friction tester for dry surfaces and a pendulum test of the skid resistance of wet surfaces with a wet slider). A new standard on of slip-resistance, AS/NZS 4586, was published in 1999. It partially superseded AS/NZS 3661.1 as it contains additional ramp tests for oily floors. It can be used for testing highly profiled surfaces. This standard is primarily intended for laboratory tests that can be used for selecting floor materials on the basis of their slip resistance properties when they are new. The newest standard is AS/NZS 4663:2002, Slip resistance measurement of existing pedestrian surfaces. It describes methods that can be used for measuring the frictional characteristics of existing pedestrian surfaces on site in both wet and dry conditions. The test methods specified in this standard may be unsuitable for testing highly profiled surfaces.

Some floor materials have less slip resistance than others. In particular smooth surfaces tend to be more slippery when they are wet than surfaces that have a rougher texture due to profiling (such as grooves or the small ridges known as teeth). Smooth glazed tiles can be particularly hazardous when they are wet. The high risk areas in workplaces are the areas of floor that can become wet or oily, all sloping surfaces, work areas where lifting and carrying tasks (and some other manual handling tasks such as pushing and pulling) are common and any area where the pace of work causes people to walk quickly or run.

Slip-resistance of floor surfaces

Floor surface Ceramic tiles Granite Cork Linoleum Wood Marble Concrete (smooth) Category Usually safe Usually safe Usually safe when dry Usually safe when dry Not always safe Not always safe Not always safe COF (dry) 0.48 0.42 0.48 0.42 0.40 0.38 0.38 COF (wet) 0.45 0.41 0.21 0.20 0.21 0.22 0.10

This table is based on data given in the ILO encyclopedia. A large number of COF (coefficient of friction) means that the surface is more slip resistant. A small number (ie. smaller than 0.4) means the surface is slippery.

Dry surfaces tend to be more slippery when they are covered with dust or polish. Unglazed porous tiles often have a surface that provides good grip (traction) when they are new but they can wear smooth after years of wear and tear so that they can end up becoming dangerously slippery when they are wet or oily. Many surface coatings that improve the appearance of floors are ineffective at increasing slip resistance and some (such as vitrification) will actually increase the hazard. Some have only temporary effects. It is far better to ensure that a material is supplied in the first place. The most recent overseas research (in Germany) shows that ramp tests are the most accurate tests of slip-resistance. For workplaces where slips and trips are common (such as kitchens) it is highly advisable to select a floor material that performs well in the oil-wet ramp test (see AS / NZS 4586: 1999). Flooring materials that are slip-resistant when the ramp angle exceeds 19 degrees (assessment groups R 11, R 12 and R 13) are the most highly recommended. These are most likely to be unglazed porous ceramics and epoxy coated concrete. Materials with rough surfaces (such as teeth) or coatings of abrasive grit tend to do well in this type of test.

Pendulum tests are now thought to be less accurate so it would be prudent to choose only those floor materials that meet the highest classification V (this corresponds roughly to those with a coefficient of friction exceeding 0.55 when wet) for work areas where the risk slipping tends to be high. Surfaces that are unlikely to perform as well as this (such as glazed ceramics and terrazzo) should be avoided in high-risk areas. Research by the UK Slip Resistance Group suggests that for high-risk areas, the flooring should have an adequate surface roughness as well as an adequate traction as shown by the pendulum test. A roughness value of at least 10 micrometers (from peak to valley) has been suggested. Non-slip treatments increase the friction between the foot and the floor surface and is usually done by increasing the roughness of the floor surface. There are many floor products and treatment processes that reduce the slipperiness of floors. Some of these are: slip resistant vinyl or rubber mats and tiles that can be applied over an existing floor chemical treatments such as acid etches that can improve hard mineral floors, tiles, concrete, marble or terrazzo. (Regular re-treatment may be necessary) making the surface rougher with sandblasting or grooving self-adhesive safety tapes, often used on stairs and entrances

non-slip coatings that can be painted on. Warn people about slippery surfaces. It is often the lack of warning that causes problems. People can walk on slippery surfaces, such as ice, by modifying gait and stride length, provided they know about the slippery conditions. Consider changes in lighting and floor colouring that conceal a change in the coefficient of friction between adjacent surfaces.

Housekeeping is the maintenance of workplaces in a clean, tidy and orderly state to remove hazards that could cause slips and trips. Hazards such as liquid spills need to be dealt with quickly so cleaning equipment should be readily available. Housekeeping should be included as part of regular safety audits and/or hazard inspections in the workplace. The sample housekeeping checklist on the next page is a useful tool for ensuring that a safe standard is maintained.

Housekeeping Checklist
Use this checklist in each area of a workplace to identify hazards. Each no answer indicates increased risk

Floors even, on one level free of oil and grease spills materials out of the way sawdust, shavings offcuts swept up floor openings covered or protected when not in use slip resistance complies with AS/NZS 3661 carpets and mats flat with no curling edges Aisles wide enough for good traffic flow clear of stock, equipment, rubbish clear of mechanical equipment (trolleys etc.) clear of electrical leads Stairways and landings edges of treads in good condition; no loose capping clean; free of oil and grease handrails in good repair stairs and landings clear and free from obstruction Rubbish bins located at suitable points bins emptied regularly Lighting stairwells and exits well illuminated all walkways adequately lit work areas well illuminated Other drains or spill trays provided: under taps and sinks under liquid storage drums under machines, pumps and valves floor cleaning equipment readily available entrance mats available for wet weather regular cleaning and maintenance program in place













Although not a substitute for good floor surfaces and housekeeping, footwear can play a part in reducing the risks of slipping. Appropriate footwear becomes more important where it is difficult to control the condition of the floor, such as during maintenance work. However, no shoes can make a smooth, oily surface safe. The normal wear of shoe soling material affects its frictional properties. New heels and soles can be more slippery than slightly used ones, so people wearing new shoes should be warned that they may be slippery when first used. Studies have shown that slip accidents while walking usually begin at the instant when the heel strikes the floor. If there is not enough friction at this point the foot starts to slide. Design and condition of the heel of a shoe is therefore particularly important. Shoes should be replaced or repaired if the tread is worn off in the heel area.

Selecting anti-slip footwear

Tests of different sole materials and different floor types show that nitrile rubber, nitrile PVC, and polyurethane shoe soles are generally best under most conditions. Leather soles have less slip resistance on most surfaces and are unsafe on smooth wet floors. A bevelled or rounded heel corner is better than a square edge, as it increases the contact area at heel strike. When selecting anti-slip footwear also consider the following points: look for shoes where the sole is not too rigid. The best shoe soles are somewhat elastic so that they can conform to a walking surface. a deep tread pattern is important on wet floor surfaces because the tread channels liquid away from contact areas. The tread must be deep enough to allow for reasonable wear, especially at the heel. the comfort of the shoe is important as this helps you to move naturally and with confidence, without changing the way you walk. The shoe should fit properly and feel secure.

Rounded and bevelled heels (right) are better than square heels


Lifting objects that are grasped or released below knee level is a physically demanding task and a common cause of back injuries. Australias top exercise scientists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, ergonomists and occupational health and safety personnel have reviewed the different lifting methods. Some of their conclusions and recommendations are reported below.


Some methods of lifting are more harmful than others. The straight leg or stoop lift methods of lifting can cause back injuries. The straight leg or stoop lift method involves lifting with straight legs and a bent lower back (lumbar spine). Many workers continue to use this technique to lift objects. This method of lifting is bad for the back and should be discouraged. People tend to use the straight leg or stoop lift because it feels a lot easier and requires less energy than squatting. The problems with the straight leg or stoop lift include: high compression forces on the lumbar disc all the load is on the spine, which has only small muscles increased force on the spine when the load is held away from the body the lumbar ligaments are under extreme strain.
Straight leg/stoop posture

Traditionally we were taught to bend the knees when lifting. However, we were never sure how much we should bend the knees. The options available to lift low lying objects are the leg lift or deep-squat, and the semi-squat.

1. The leg lift or deep-squat

The most commonly taught method of low lifting is the leg lift or deep-squat. This method requires the knees and hips to be in almost a maximum bent position, with the buttocks close to the ground. This position is considered to be superior to the straight leg or stoop, as there is less stress on the lumbar spine, ligaments and muscles. However, the limitations of the leg lift are as follows: there is significant stress on the knee joint

there is poor stability through the lift action the strength and endurance required to extend the knees and hips under load is great

the lift is not very adaptable there is reduced mechanical effectiveness of the ankle, knee and hip joints.

If a load is a compact shape such as a box of wine it is possible to use the leg lift position. However, it is not recommended for objects of more awkward shapes, longer loads or loads in less accessible positions. In addition, people with poor muscle strength in their legs or restricted movement in their ankles, knees or hips can find this position difficult to assume. Because of the limitations with the approach for lifting low lying objects, researchers have been investigating the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of slightly different approaches.
Leg lift or deep-squat posture

2. The semi-squat
The semi-squat or inclined trunk with bent knees is now widely accepted as the preferred approach to lifting items from low levels. This approach aims to be flexible in different lifting situations and uses the following patterns of movement: the spine is in or close to its normal shape, as in standing the knees are moderately bent (flexed), within the mid-range the trunk is inclined forward to grasp the load feet are apart, either forward/back or sideways shoulders are aligned the load is held symmetrically with an even distribution of the load on the left and right sides of the body the load is held close to the body the hips and knees work smoothly together to lift and lower the load.

Supporters of the semi-squat claim it provides the best stability, power, endurance, vision and adaptability for the user.

The best solution is to avoid putting loads on the floor in the first place. It is best to locate loads at a minimum height of mid thigh level by providing a bench, table or other surface. Lifting loads from that level will minimise the strain on the knees and back. When this is not possible, the load can sometimes be modified to make it easier to grasp. To make low lifting safer, consider: putting handles on the top of loads making loads more compact to comfortably fit between the knees when in a semi-squat position adjusting or redesigning storage bins so that its possible to bend the knees when reaching items in the bins avoiding the storage of heavy items in low positions.
Semi squat posture

There is no proven best way to lift low lying objects that is right for everyone and for every type of load. However, apply the following principles when using any lift: keep the load as close to the body as possible lightly bend the knees and use the leg muscles bend the back as little as possible.

The risk of back injuries can be minimised by using these principles, together with careful design of the workplace.




Each year in NSW hundreds of workers in the road transport, construction and public administration industries suffer back injuries when climbing in and out of trucks and plant particularly when it requires a step or climb. Injuries are due to workers slipping while trying to climb into cabs, jumping out of cabs, and the cumulative efforts of bending and twisting the spine from climbing in and out.

A Sydney ergonomist and safety consultant, Mike Stevenson, says his research1 shows that injuries from climbing in and out of truck cabins can be avoided: with better designed steps and grab rails by more care on the part of the driver.

Some causes of injuries revealed in the research are: the first step/foothold is too high to reach comfortably the grab rails are inadequate to provide sufficient support the steps provide inadequate space to support the foot the surfaces of the steps are slippery.

Workers and employers responsible for trucks should review their existing equipment and procedures to improve entry and exit. There are no standards specifically addressing access systems for trucks. However, truck owners are encouraged to follow the Australian Standard AS 3868-1991: Earth-moving machinery Design guide

for access systems to improve access to trucks.


All earth-moving plant should comply with the Australian Standard AS 3868-1991. This Standard is based on the International Standard ISO 2867: Earth-moving machinery Access systems. Some guidelines from these standards are: the steps and grab rails should provide access that is in a straight path between the ground and the seat the first step should be no more than 400 mm above the ground when the machine is on level ground. A foldaway step may prevent it from being damaged when the machine is in operation the steps and grab rails should be positioned to encourage the driver to climb down backward rather than jump out forward
1. Risk Identification, Assessment and Control for Road Transport, presented at the WorkCover BackWatch Industry Seminars, May 1995.


grab rails should be within convenient reach and about 900mm above any step or inclined ladder steps should be coordinated with handholds to ensure that three points of contact are made at all times, eg. two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand the step surface should minimise the accumulation of debris and aid in cleaning mud from shoe soles. The step tread surface should not be used as a handhold.

Grab rails provide easier access



Backbelts are currently advertised and promoted in Australia and overseas as a way to reduce the risk of back injuries. These belts come in a variety of shapes and materials, ranging from elasticised models to ones with air bladders that can be adjusted to suit the user. Despite their popularity at some work sites, there is still a lack of scientific data supporting the use of backbelts as a way to prevent back injuries. WorkCover and the American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Working Party recommend that the most effective means of reducing back injuries is by developing and implementing a comprehensive manual handling program. The American National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports: that the use of backbelts is not recommended to prevent back injuries of already injured workers preventative backbelts do not reduce the risk of back injury to workers who repeatedly lift, push, pull or bend preventative backbelts are not personal protective equipment.

These conclusions are taken from a publication of NIOSH that reviewed current physical and epidemiological literature on backbelts. The title of the report is Workplace Use of Backbelts: US Department Of Health and Human Services 1994. This review cautioned readers to be careful when interpreting the results of the various studies because in many cases the flaws in the research design limited their ability to be applied to the general population. Some shortcomings of the studies are: sample sizes used were small young males were the main subjects of the studies experimental periods were short.

In addition, because of variations in the types of belts, lifting postures and the frequency and amounts of weight lifted, the studies cannot be compared. Some commonly asked questions that were answered in the report are:


There is not enough available information to say whether or not backbelts significantly reduce the biomechanical loading of the trunk during manual lifting. The studies reviewed do not provide conclusive evidence that actual trunk muscle forces, predicted spinal compression, or shear forces are significantly reduced by wearing a backbelt.



It is not possible to conclude (based on the limited number of studies) if preventative backbelts are able to reduce the range of motion about the spine to affect loading on the spinal structures. In some cases the resistance provided by the belt may increase the load on the back, particularly in asymmetric lifting (eg. lifting an object with one hand), because it may be necessary to increase the muscle force to overcome belt resistance.

There is proof that IAP increases when a backbelt is worn. However, there is insufficient scientific information to support the belief that increased IAP reduces the risk of back injury. Conversely, the evidence suggests that the use of backbelts may produce temporary strain on the cardiovascular system through increased IAP. It follows that individuals with compromised cardiovascular systems may be at a greater risk when exercising or working with back supports.

Some studies suggest that this may be true while others have shown that it may not. However, in all cases, the conclusions have limited application because of weaknesses in research design.


One study showed that discomfort was reduced for backbelt wearers when lifting heavy weights (greater than 27kg). It is possible that the subjects anticipation of a decrease in discomfort before the study could have biased the results.


One study revealed that people wearing backbelts could lift heavier loads. However, this perception of protection while wearing a backbelt may not actually reflect the individuals ability to lift a heavier load and is a cause of concern.



Training is an essential part of control strategies for reducing manual handling injuries. The purpose is to develop knowledge, skills and experience for managing manual handling risks in the workplace. Training should also be used to promote and support other risk control measures, such as redesign and improved work organisation. Two types of training will be required in most organisations: 1. General training 2. Particular training.

Management of manual handling risks through a consultative process is required by legislation in NSW. General training should therefore be provided to all employees who are involved in manual handling, and to OHS representatives, supervisors and managers. The aim is to ensure that they can all participate in the risk management process. All employees involved in manual handling should receive training that includes: in general terms, what manual handling is information about injuries that can result from manual handling the legislation, with an overview of the rights and responsibilities of all people in the workplace risk factors that contribute to manual handling injuries hazard identification, risk assessment and control safe manual handling techniques.

Training requirements will vary for different people within the organisation because of different roles in the safety management process. The legislation places additional responsibilities for safety management on supervisors and managers. Special training may be needed by: employees representatives on health and safety issues staff responsible for design or selection of equipment staff responsible for work organisation, job and task design.

These groups, in addition to receiving the training described above, should be trained to: identify manual handling tasks that require risk assessment recognise and understand that there are many factors contributing to manual handling risk prevent manual handling injuries through design of tasks, work areas, equipment and work processes develop appropriate control measures for tasks that have been assessed as risks.


All training must: develop the practical skills necessary for hazard identification, risk assessment and control activities illustrate concepts with examples from the participants own workplace to enhance their understanding of, and familiarity with, the nature of manual handling risks in their workplace. Trainers must consider the potential barriers to training and participation, including literacy, language and cultural factors. This may mean that key individuals are trained to pass on the skills to other employees.

Core training elements

The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission has produced a booklet called Core Training Elements for the National Standard for Manual Handling 1. This booklet outlines training elements that are consistent with legislation and codes of practice on manual handling, including prevention of occupational overuse syndrome (OOS). You will be able to identify gaps, judge the quality of the program, and recommend any changes by comparing the Core Training Elements with your worksites or consultants training plan. It should be noted that the Core Training Elements cover the training that will enable manual handling legislation to be implemented they do not include job specific training.
1. Australian Government Publishing Service 1995.

Training objectives
According to the Core Training Elements, participants of training should be able (at a level commensurate with their responsibility under the legislation for health and safety) to: describe the legislation relating to manual handling and the risk of development of occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) describe the health and safety effects relating to manual handling, including manual handling associated with OOS participate in hazard identification, risk assessment and control as it relates to manual handling and the development of OOS identify risk factors relating to manual handling and the development of OOS assess risks relating to manual handling and the development of OOS control risks relating to manual handling and the development of OOS communicate and consult regarding implementation of manual handling and OOS management plans design a management program for manual handling and OOS.


Particular training must be given to employees who perform manual handling tasks and that training should be specific to those tasks. When developing particular training in methods of manual handling consider: the task itself risk factors particular conditions in the workplace any control measures. Trainers, experienced employees and health and safety personnel should jointly develop the particular training in methods of manual handling. You may need to get specialist advice and assistance to develop the program. The company should then determine the appropriate person to conduct the training. It is important to provide training on the job. The training techniques must be specific and apply directly to the tasks in which the risks are to be controlled. The training must ensure that the person doing the task: understands the reasons for doing the job with the least risk can recognise the risks and decide the best way to go about the task knows what is the best way to go about the task can perform the task in this way.

Employers should provide training for employees who use mechanical aids. Such training should be developed: following the manufacturers or suppliers instructions on the needs of the task on risk control measures.

Appropriate supervision must be provided to the trainees receiving the general and particular training. Any training which is provided for employees should also be provided to their supervisors.

Choosing a trainer /consultant

The trainer may be an external consultant or part of the organisation where the training will be conducted. External consultants are very useful when you arent sure what to do or the job requires expertise not available in your company. Trainers must have an understanding of: the National Standard and Code of Practice for Manual Handling ergonomics anatomy physiology occupational health and safety risk management.


They must also be experienced in training or teaching adults. Some important considerations when choosing a trainer / consultant are: appropriate and relevant formal qualifications of the trainer / consultant previous experience of training adults in safe manual handling systems (not just safe lifting techniques) details or examples of previous work (references or comments from recent clients would be helpful) membership in professional organisations (eg. Ergonomics Society of Australia, Safety Institute of Australia) WorkCover accreditation.

This list is for guidance only. The items in it should not all be regarded as compulsory. You will have to use your judgement to determine whether the trainer / consultant you choose has the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct manual handling training for your workplace.

Where to find consultants

You can make enquiries for the names of likely consultants through: your local trade or industry association business colleagues the yellow pages of the telephone directory professional associations, eg. Ergonomics Society of Australia.




Hand-pushed trolleys are used to control manual handling risks because they provide an alternative to carrying loads by hand. Trolleys can also move larger loads than can be carried by hand. However, under some circumstances, the forces needed to manoeuvre a loaded trolley can introduce a significant manual handling risk. The way in which you load and unload trolleys may also create a risk of manual handling injury. Appropriate selection or design of trolleys is essential to ensure that you can use them effectively and safely. The task, the workers and the work environment also contribute to the safety and effectiveness of the trolleys. In some cases, you will have to change the task or the work environment if trolleys are to be used safely. These trolley guidelines focus on reducing manual handling risks but injuries also result from slips, collisions, trolleys tipping over, crushing between trolleys and walls, and injuries to feet from trolley wheels. Improvements in trolley design, work procedures and environment can also reduce all these injuries. These guidelines apply to standard and special purpose hand-pushed trolleys that can be used in a range of industries, including manufacturing, retail, hospitality and health. Most of the recommendations are taken from a research report by Lawson and Potiki (1994)1 that provides detailed guidelines for trolleys intended for the health industry.


Many examples are found in industry where a trolley has been purchased but remains unused because it is inappropriate for the task or environment. In other examples workers are constantly exposed to unnecessary risk of back strain or other injury because of inappropriate trolley design. Poor maintenance is another reason trolleys are either unused or are unsafe when they are used. In these cases the workers who use the trolleys usually have a good understanding of what is wrong with the trolley or the task they are expected to do with it. This understanding can be used in the design or selection process to minimise the risk of a new purchase being either unusable or an ongoing risk to health and safety.

Lawson, J and Potiki, J. (1994) Research Report: Development of Ergonomic Guidlelines for Manually-Handled Trolleys in the Health Industry (Unpublished). The research was sponsored by the Central Sydney Area Health Service and funded by a grant from Worksafe Australia.


It is not just common sense to consult workers when choosing a trolley. The OHS Act and Regulations make consultation with workers (or their representatives on health and safety issues) compulsory when manual handling risks are being assessed and when risk control measures are introduced. Before you decide that a trolley is the right solution to a manual handling problem it is important to consider all other options as well. For example, you may find ways of changing a process to eliminate the need for manual handling. You may also be able to use other mechanical means of moving things, such as a forklift or conveyor. If you decide that a hand-pushed trolley is required, the following steps should be taken when preparing a specification for the design or purchase: 1 Consult with workers to find out what the problems are with the existing way the task is done and to provide information about some of the options available. 2 Assess the task for which the trolley will be used. Consider all the risk factors in Part 4.4 of the

OHS Regulation 2001. Measure or estimate weights to be handled and distances to be moved. If
trolleys are currently in use, measure push/ pull forces along the routes travelled. A simple spring balance is all that is required to do this. 3 Involve an OHS professional in preparing the specification for new equipment. 4 Get advice about trolley types and options from a trolley supplier. 5 Wherever possible, try out new equipment before purchase. Perhaps you can build a prototype or mock-up of new equipment that is being designed and have it tested on the job before finalising the specifications, or you can borrow an existing trolley of the same type. 6 Consider how the trolley will be maintained, who will be responsible for maintenance and how frequently the trolley will be inspected. 7 Develop a procedure for the safe use of the trolley that includes load limits, areas where the trolley can be used and training of the workers.


In many situations a trolley can be purchased or adapted from a standard range. The most common types are discussed and illustrated below. Many other types of trolleys are available for specific purposes.

Two-wheel trolleys
Two-wheel trolleys or hand trucks are versatile and widely used on delivery vehicles and for moving furniture. They are good for: tall items that must be picked up and set down at floor level delivery work, where the trolley itself is frequently lifted on and off the vehicle uneven terrain and over gutters.

Two-wheel trolleys require the user to support some of the load. For this reason they are not the best option for long distances on smooth floors where a platform trolley could be used.
Two-wheel trolley


Low-platform trolleys
Low-platform trolleys are stable and suitable for luggage and large cartons. The low platform means that a large volume of stock can be carried without the overall height becoming excessive. However, you have to bend down to pick up the lowest items unless the items have handles at the top.

High-platform (traymobile) trolleys

The top deck of a high-platform trolley keeps items at a more convenient height for manual handling. Lower levels provide extra capacity but should not be used for heavy or awkward items.
Low-platform trolley

Box-sided trolleys
Basically a box or tub on wheels, these are used for linen and loose items that are not easily stacked on a platform. A disadvantage is that it is necessary to bend down over the sides to get items out (opening sides or spring-assisted lift inserts can be provided to overcome this problem).

Push/pull forces
The push / pull forces required to move a trolley must be kept within safe limits, in order to reduce the risk of strain injuries. Reducing the force needed also reduced the risk of slipping while trying to move and control a trolley. The initial force required to start a trolley is usually higher than the force needed to keep it moving in a straight line, especially if the swivel castors are not already aligned with the direction of travel.

High-platform (traymobile) trolleys

Lawson and Potiki, in their report, recommend that maximum push / pull forces in

Box-sided trolleys

the range of 17-21 kg for initial force, and 6-12 kg for sustained force will be safe for nearly all workers. The values at the lowest end of the ranges given above are recommended, particularly for tasks done frequently or of long duration. Values at the highest end of the ranges are maximum limits for infrequent, short duration tasks. High peak forces are sometimes encountered when pushing across a short ramp or over an irregularity in a floor surface. These peak forces should not exceed the specified initial force limits. Where a trolley is pushed over several different floor surfaces, the recommended sustained force limit should not be exceeded on the most resistant floor surface. (The force required to push a trolley on carpet is typically 30 per cent to 50 per cent higher than on a smooth hard surface.) If trolleys are pushed up a slope (unless it is only for a very short distance), the load should be limited so that the recommended sustained force limit is not exceeded on the slope. Table 1 shows calculated pushing force increases per 100 kg of laden trolley weight on various slopes. These must be added to the pushing force needed on a level surface.


Slope gradient 1 in 10 (5.7) 1 in 15 (3.8) 1 in 20 (2.9) 1 in 30 (1.9) 1 in 50 (1.1)

Push force increase per 100kg of laden trolley weight 10.0 kg 6.7 kg 5.0 kg 3.3 kg 2.0 kg

Table 1 Increase in pushing force on various slopes

For example, if a trolley with a laden weight of 150 kg requires a pushing force of 3 kg on a level surface, it will require a force of 10.5 kg (3 + 5 (150 100)) to push it up a gradient of 1 in 20. The push / pull forces can be reduced by: reducing the total weight of the loaded trolley replacing carpets with smooth, hard floor surfaces using wheels with a lower rolling resistance, eg. larger diameter, harder tyres, better bearings.

If the push / pull forces cannot be kept within the recommended limits, then consider getting assistance from a second person or a mechanical towing device.

Types of wheels
The choice of wheels and castors has a significant impact on the safety and ease of handling of a trolley. The factors that must be considered in order to minimise rolling resistance are discussed below.

Wheel diameter
Larger wheels have lower rolling resistance than smaller ones and are less affected by gaps, ridges and irregularities in the floor surface. A minimum diameter of 200 mm was recommended by Lawson and Potiki for all trolleys that have a laden weight over 200 kg or that are used outdoors. For other trolleys a minimum diameter of 125 mm is recommended. Small wheels may be acceptable for light trolleys that are moved only short distances on smooth floors.

Width and tyre profile

Narrower wheels and rounded tyre profiles roll and swivel more easily on hard surfaces. Wider treads may be necessary on soft carpets or where there are gaps that could catch a narrow wheel (eg. slots in drainage grates or gaps between a lift and the floor). The width of the wheel will be dictated to some extent by the load rating required.

Tyre material
Hard materials such as cast iron and nylon have the lowest rolling resistance on hard, smooth surfaces such as concrete and are suitable in some industrial applications. However, hard wheels are more difficult to start when obstructions such as a stone or a gap in the floor is encountered. They can also generate a lot of noise.


Softer materials tend to even out the peak forces and may feel easier to push, even if the rolling resistance is higher on a smooth surface. Shock absorbing materials such as rubber or polyurethane may be required for rougher floors and outdoor surfaces. In hospitals and hotels, non-marking rubber or polyurethane may be required to reduce noise and protect floor surfaces (nylon wheels are suitable if used exclusively on carpet). Pneumatic tyres roll easily over bumps and unpaved surfaces and may be preferred for some outdoor applications. However, they have higher rolling resistance on smooth floors. Check them regularly to maintain the correct inflation pressure. Some softer tyre materials may have high friction on some floor surfaces and make it hard for the wheels to swivel into alignment when the trolley is started, resulting in a higher initial force. For high load applications it is important to try out different wheels on the floor where they will be used, prior to purchase.

Sealed precision ball bearings provide the lowest rolling resistance. They are recommended for hand-pushed trolleys that are used frequently or over reasonable distances. Pre-lubrication and effective sealing ensure that the low rolling resistance is maintained without the need for further lubrication. There are other types of lower grade ball bearings available that are cheaper and perform well if regularly lubricated. Roller bearings are more commonly available for industrial castors but need periodic lubrication to maintain low rolling resistance. Plain metal bearings are acceptable on trolleys moved only infrequently over short distances, but the rolling resistance is higher than ball or roller bearings and increases markedly if not regularly lubricated. Plastic (usually nylon or acetal) plain bearings are acceptable for light loads and do not require lubrication. Thread guards should be used to stop bearings from becoming clogged when used in environments where there are fabrics and lint (eg. laundries). They are also reasonably effective at keeping dust and debris out of unsealed bearings, therefore requiring less frequent maintenance. While taking cost and availability into account in the final selection of bearing types, you may find that the higher initial cost of sealed ball bearings is justified if push / pull forces are lower over the life of the trolley. You should contact wheel and castor manufacturers for advice on selecting the type of wheels and bearings for a particular application.

Brakes on at least two wheels are important if the trolley has to be loaded / unloaded on sloping surfaces or where it is important to stop movement while transferring large items. Castors are available with total brakes that prevent swivelling of the castor as well as rotation of the wheel.

Castor arrangements
Swivelling castors allow trolleys to be steered and manoeuvred in different directions. It is important to design trolleys so that they can be manoeuvred easily with a minimum requirement for push / pull and


twisting forces to keep the trolley going in the right direction. Different arrangements of swivelling and fixed wheels are commonly used to have advantages and disadvantages in different situations as described below.

Four swivelling wheels

This is the most manoeuvrable arrangement and can be moved in any direction. It is suitable for short distances in congested or confined spaces on level floors but it is not well-suited to long distances as it requires more effort to steer than other arrangements. On sloped surfaces it may tend to drift sideways and require twisting effort to maintain straight travel.
Four swivelling wheels

Two swivel, two fixed wheels

This arrangement is best suited to long distance pushing and sloped or uneven surfaces. The swivelling wheels should be at the handle (rear) end of the trolley so that you can steer by a light sideways force rather than a more hazardous twisting force. The same effect can be achieved with a four swivel trolley if one or both of the front wheels of the trolley are fitted with directional locks.
Two swivel, two fixed wheels

Four swivel, two fixed centre wheels

This arrangement is best for long trolleys. The trolley pivots in its own length and is easy to steer around corners in a passageway, but is not easily manoeuvred into a corner or parked against a wall. A variation of this arrangement, with only one wheel at each end, is acceptable for relatively narrow trolleys that are uniformly loaded.
Four swivel, two fixed centre wheels

Handle design
The optimum height for a handle for pushing and pulling is between 910 mm and 1000 mm above the ground, depending on the height of the workers. In general, the handle should be a little below elbow height. A middle height of 950 mm is a good compromise for most people. Vertical handles, instead of a horizontal bar, allow users to find their own most convenient height and should be about 450 mm apart to ensure good control of the trolley. The vertical corner posts of a trolley frame should not be used as handles because this exposes the workers hands to contact with doorways and other objects.


The handle should protrude at least 200 mm from the back edge of the trolley to provide room for a normal walking stride without the shins contacting the bottom edge of the trolley.
910 1000 mm 200 mm

Trolleys with swivel castors at both ends may also have handles at both ends to maximise manoeuvrability in confined areas.

Manual handling while loading / unloading

Arrange shelves and load platforms to optimise conditions for manual handling while transferring items to and from the trolley. Ideally, handling of loads should be done without stooping or twisting, and with hands between mid-thigh and waist height. A trolley with a platform around 800 mm high satisfies this requirement for handling heavy cartons, but a low platform, about 250 mm high is better for handling items like suitcases that have a handle at the top. Smooth shelves without a lip allow objects to be slid on and off easily. This makes it easier to handle large objects such as cartons.
Recommended handle position

Trolley dimensions
Trolley dimensions will be determined primarily by practical considerations, but the overall dimensions of the trolley should be limited to a size that, when full, can be pushed without exceeding the recommended pushing forces. The following additional guides should also be followed where possible: You should be able to see over the top of a trolley so that you can push it with clear vision of the path ahead. If you cannot see over the top you are more likely to adopt a twisted posture in order to pull the trolley or to see around the sides. A maximum laden height of 1300 mm is recommended to enable nearly all workers to see over the top. If the trolley must be taller than this, the sides should be open or have mesh areas so that you can see through it. The overall width should be at least 80 mm smaller than the narrowest doorway the trolley will pass through. However, to ensure stability, the distance between the axles of castors when both swivel castors are pointing inwards should be at least two thirds of trolley width and one sixth of trolley height, or one fifth of trolley height if trolleys are used on slopes up to 6 degrees (see diagram on previous page). The length of a trolley should generally be between 1.5 and 2.0 times the width for ease of steering.
Trolley dimensions: WB should WB W H

not be less than two thirds of W and not less than one fifth of H for trolleys used on slopes up to 6 degrees.


Trolley design case study Coin handling trolley

This trolley provides an example of how potential manual handling risks can be eliminated through design. The trolley was required for moving coin tins and bags of coins in a bank. Coins in bulk are very heavy so it was necessary to decide on a size that would limit the weight to a safe level for pushing. A limit of 350 kg was chosen and it was found that this weight of coins would fit on a tray of 820 mm x 520 mm. The tray was set at a height of about 900 mm so there would be no need to stoop or twist while handling coins. The lower deck of the trolley was made to slope down from a peak in the middle so that it couldnt be used for carrying anything. It was possible to leave the frame open at the bottom, but staff might have been tempted to place boxes on the frame and carry extra loads, exceeding the safe design limit. It is safer to prevent overloading with this design feature than to rely on staff training. A six-wheel arrangement was chosen with two fixed castors in the centre and four swivel castors in the corners. This gave accurate and easy steering and made the trolley double ended it also has handles on both ends. Most of the weight is supported on the two large (200 mm) wheels, which roll easily on carpeted floors. All wheels are nylon with roller bearings.



Risk assessment is the second stage of the three stages of risk management described in the OHS Regulation 2001. The first stage is hazard identification. This involves determining which jobs or tasks are likely, or are known, to cause manual handling injuries. Once the tasks have been identified, they must then be assessed. The risk control stage follows assessment, and involves the elimination or reduction of the risks by the introduction of various controls. Risk assessment is a vital step as often a job or a task may be risky for a number of different but interrelated reasons. For example, risks may involve things like the weight of the load, the position of the load and the worker, and the frequency with which a task is performed. The OHS Regulation 2001 requires that employers must assess the risk of harm from any hazard identified affecting any employee or person at the place of work. The OHS Act 2000 requires that consultation with employees be undertaken when risks to health and safety arising from work are addressed. This consultation uses either formal or informal methods, depending on the place of work and the number of employees involved. The process of risk assessment is considered particularly critical when: an injury has occurred a work practice is introduced or modified. In performing a risk assessment, the OHS Regulation 2001 Clause 81 requires: The assessment shall take into account the following factors: (a) actions and movements (including repetitive actions and movements) (b) workplace and workstation layout (c) working posture and position (d) duration and frequency of manual handling (e) location of loads and distances moved (f) weights and forces

(g) characteristics of loads and equipment (h) work organisation (i) (j) work environment skills and experience

(k) age (l) clothing

(m) special needs (temporary or permanent)


(n) any other factors considered relevant by the employer, the employees or their representatives on health and safety issues. When doing a risk assessment, all risk factors and the interaction of the factors must be considered. The employer needs to work with the employees to determine why the identified manual handling task is a risk. What specifically makes the task a risk? By performing a thorough risk assessment the problem can be seen from a variety of angles and in detail. With this information the most important issues become apparent, so time does not have to be wasted on other areas. A good risk assessment stops people jumping to the wrong conclusions and is critical to the selection of an appropriate control.

The key points with risk assessment are: risk assessment must be done with all identified tasks the assessment must be performed by employers in consultation with employees the assessment must take into account the 14 risk factors (see previous page) each factor and the interaction of the factors must be considered.

The actions and movements that cause the most problems in manual handling are lifting, twisting, bending, pushing and pulling. To understand why these actions and movements are hazardous, its helpful to have a basic understanding of how the bodys musculoskeletal system works.

How the body moves The skeleton

The skeleton provides the framework and levers for muscle attachment and protects the internal organs. The back is made up of small bones vertebrae which encase the spinal cord, and permit movement. Between the joints in the back are discs, which provide some cushioning and help support and distribute the weight of the body. If a move is made by bending or twisting the back, the discs have unequal pressure applied to them and risk being damaged.

The muscles
The main muscles to consider for manual handling are the large thigh muscles, the abdominal muscles and the arm muscles. The back muscles are quite small and are designed to assist posture not to do heavy work. Muscles work most efficiently in their middle range rather than fully flexed or fully extended. So the knees and hips work most efficiently in a slightly bent rather than fully bent position.


For example, a semi-squat with the knees at about right angles is easier than a full squat position. Muscles work by contracting and relaxing and work best in a controlled or rhythmic manner. There are two main types of muscle work, know as static or holding, and dynamic or moving. In static muscle work, such as holding a tool overhead, the muscle remains contracted and so has a reduced blood flow in the muscles blood vessels. After long periods of static muscle work there is a build up of waste products and a lack of oxygen, and this can result in a heavy or painful feeling in the muscle. In dynamic muscle work the muscle is alternatively contracting and relaxing, and so bringing in new oxygenated blood and removing the waste products. Dynamic muscle work can usually be sustained for long periods, but static work is more tiring.


Effect of static effort on energy consumption (measured by oxygen consumption) for three ways of carrying a school bag.

The ligaments
These are the fibrous tissues that hold the joints together, and in the spine they run along the front and the back of the vertebrae. They provide stability for the spine and help prevent excessive movement. They can make the joint unstable if they are overstretched.

Effects of different actions and movements

The various activities shown in the graph overleaf provide examples of how the back tolerates different movements. The poorest and most destructive actions and movements are not illustrated in this graph. These actions and movements are a combination of bending and twisting the back with straight legs.

The safest actions and movements

Taking into consideration how the parts of the body work together, the body works best, and most efficiently, if movements are:


performed in a symmetrical, forwardfacing position

smooth and controlled, and not jarring within the mid-range of the joints movement

% 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0

dynamic and moving muscles, rather than static and holding muscles or joints in a fixed position

performed in an upright rather than bent over posture.

The best posture for lifting

The principles of good lifting are to: avoid twisting the back hold the load close to the body utilise the leg muscles maintaining the normal spinal curves, so not bending the back be in a stable position.

Body posture during weight lifting The effect of body posture when lifting weights on the intervertebral disc pressure between the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae.
A = upright stance. B = upright stance with 10 kg in each hand. C = lifting a load of 20 kg with knees bent and back straight (correct stance for lifting a weight). D = lifting 20 kg with knees straight and back bent. Pressure on discs during upright stance (A) is taken as 100%.

Always bend the knees if objects must be lifted from low levels. A full squat to the ground is

not necessary, but a semi-squat will transfer some load from the back to the leg muscles.

Assessing actions and movements

When undertaking a risk assessment the following methods can be used to determine if the actions and movements are a risk: close observation, looking at different body parts one at a time taking photographs or videos to freeze-frame an action that is hard to see comparing the actions and movement different workers use to do the same task, to see if one has found an easier approach or uses a better technique noting if the muscle work is mainly static or dynamic asking workers doing the task why they use certain actions and how they feel.

For more specialist assessments, electromyography can be used to measure the activity in different muscles, and determine the static loading and maximum voluntary contractions. Electromyography is a method of investigating the action of muscles by tracking the electrical activity associated with this action. Motion monitors are another tool to measure and analyse body movements


The layout should suit the individual employee. The positioning of plant and equipment in relation to each other and to the employee influences work postures and manual handling techniques, and by its design may encourage the use of an awkward or hazardous posture. As there is tremendous difference


in peoples sizes, one workstation or layout will not necessarily suit everyone, so adjustments may need to be made. When altering a workplace set-up, its important to look at: the flow of the job the heights of the work surfaces too low or too high the angle of the work surface angled may be better than flat the positioning of the most frequently used or accessed items the availability of and suitability of the equipment the space required to work safely the positions and movements the worker has to use in the existing arrangement. To determine if the workplace and layout are appropriate, the people assessing this factor will need to know what the task entails, who does the task and how often the task is done. For example, think of your own work area. Where do you keep the phone? Are you frequently on the phone? If so, your phone should be within easy reach so you do not have to bend forward or to either side to use it. One common problem is positioning loads and equipment in a way that encourages workers to twist around. For example, when assisting a patient to transfer from a chair to a wheelchair, it is generally better to bring the wheelchair next to, rather than opposite, the chair. Because the Australian population originates from diverse backgrounds, there are significant differences in size within our workforce. It is often necessary to provide layouts that are flexible and equipment that is adjustable to accommodate the workers. This example shows how bench heights are different, depending on the task:

Precision work

Light work

Heavier work

Recommended heights of benches for standing work

The reference line ( O) is the height of the elbows above the floor, which averages 1050 mm for men and 980 mm for women


Assessing the workplace and workstation layout

When assessing this risk factor, consider: the range of heights and sizes of workers who perform this task, to determine if the height or layout of the workstation suits everyone what parts of the workstation suits everyone using a tape measure to check working heights, reach distances, shelf heights, door widths etc. using a camera or video recorder to note problem areas.


Using a good posture when sitting, standing, walking and performing any manual handling task is vital.

Cervical Curve

What is good posture?

Posture is more than just sitting or standing up straight. While posture includes positions when the body is still, it also refers to moving positions, such as reaching to grasp something or bending or picking up something. Since backs are not straight, but have three curves, it is better to think of alignment of the back and the maintenance of these normal curves. A good posture involves working with the spine with the following curves: a slight inward curve at the neck an outward curve (or kyphosis) between the shoulder blades and an inward curve (or lordosis) in the lower back.
Lumbar Curve

Thoracic Curve

Difficult work situations

Some typical work situations where people may find it difficult to achieve a good posture are: working at a surface that is too low, causing the worker to bend forward sitting without a back support or with poor lumbar support standing for long periods, as one tends to slouch reaching for something that is in an awkward position, such as above the shoulder, or a movement that requires twisting the back using plant or equipment that is the wrong size or height for the worker handling loads or forces that require a bent or asymmetrical posture, like lifting a suitcase in one hand or carrying a child on a hip.

Consequences of poor postures and positions

The reason that posture is so important is that bad postures cause gradual damage to the muscles, ligaments and discs. Poor posture does not need a load to make it damaging. People working in a sustained bent posture, such as carpet


laying or leaning over a bed to dress a wound, can experience back pain. This sort of back pain develops slowly, and the old expression about the straw that broke the camels back is a very accurate description of the problem. The graph shows the stresses on the
Total load on third lumbar disc in a subject of 70 kg.

Total load in the mid-lumbar region

kg 300

spine with the back in different postures:

Best postures and positions

To reduce the risk of postural problems, workers should be able to: maintain a good posture for the duration of the task vary their posture, avoiding long periods of any one posture avoid bending or twisting the spine work with their joints in midrange without having to overreach take rest breaks and stretch






Body posture during weight lifting

rotate to another task if a poor posture cannot be avoided work between shoulder and waist level lift loads close to their bodies.

Assessing working posture and position

The following methods can be used: using a checklist to note particular postures used in the task, eg. forward bend, twist, crouch taking photographs or videos to freeze-frame a position that is hard to see comparing the posture and positions different workers use to do the same task to see if one has found an easier approach or uses a better technique trying to see why the posture is used, eg. is the person bent forward because the handles are too low or because a racking system or shelf restricts their movement? specific posture analysis systems, used by some specialists.


The duration and frequency of a task can significantly increase the risk of injury. When a muscle is used continuously it does not immediately relax back to its original length, and after working for a long time it is more susceptible to fatigue and hence, injury. Arthritis in the joints is another possible consequence, and the form most relevant to manual handling is osteoarthritis, which is caused by long periods of wear and tear. The Standard and Code for Manual Handling do not list specific definitions of what is a prolonged period or what is considered frequent as there are no hard and fast rules. It depends on the task.


Victorian legislation provides guildelines on their interpretation, considering there to be an increased risk of injury if a worker has to manually handle loads more frequently than the following:

Handling loads between mid-thigh and shoulder height Duration:

Over a full shift ie. approx 8 hours Up to one hour

Handling loads starting below mid-thigh height Frequency:

More than 12 actions/minute

More than 15 actions/minute

More than 18 actions/minute

More than 15 actions / minute

However, these figures can only be considered a guide, as the assessment must take into account the other influences on duration and frequency such as: the intensity of the work repetition of the work muscle size boredom fitness.

The intensity of the work

As the power of the muscle contraction reduces, the longer the contraction is maintained. Research shows: 100% of maximum muscle strength is possible for a maximum of 6 seconds 75% 50% 25% 15% 21 seconds 60 seconds 3.5 minutes more than 4 minutes

For example, if a worker is holding a 15 kg load, after just one minute the workers strength will have halved and the load will feel heavier.

Repetition of the work

A faster repetition generally causes more rapid fatigue than slow repetition, depending on the force required. One well known consequence of performing repetitious work over long periods is Occupational Overuse Syndrome, and repetitive movement of the back can result in gradual trauma and degeneration.

Muscle size
Small muscles fatigue faster than larger muscles. For example, arms fatigue faster than legs. Fine finger grasps using the tips of the fingers or manipulating small items are more tiring than power grasps such as grasping a handle on a trolley.

Performing one task for a long time can lead to reduced concentration and a feeling of fatigue, and that is when people can start making mistakes. Even if the weight of the load is not an issue, the mere duration of the task can be a problem.


A persons physical fitness (flexibility, strength and stamina) and body size and type will have a significant effect on the ability to manage a manual handling task frequently and for long periods. So where one worker may be able to manage a task for a long period without a break and without injury, a less fit or conditioned person or one with different muscle fibre types may have a problem.

Assessing duration and frequency

Consider: asking workers to rate their fatigue or exertion, as this provides a reasonable indication of whether the task is too demanding. A rating scale or categories of effort used may be useful checking what planned and natural breaks are available counting actions per minute or loads moved per shift timing periods on different tasks.


Location of loads
With all manual handling tasks pushing a trolley, restraining a child, or holding a crate it is important to use force or hold the load as close to the body as possible. The spine works like a lever and the further the load is away from the body, the greater the compression force on the spine, particularly on the lower back. Bending over to reach a load or carrying a load with the arms outstretched will increase the pressure on the spine by about seven to ten times, so that even a small load becomes heavy. Therefore, the best way to carry a load is to hold it against the body, as close to the centre of gravity as possible. When storing loads, place them in spaces between mid-thigh and chest height. Loads (even light loads) should be stored within easy reach. Accessing loads placed too far from the body can unduly increase the pressure on the spine.

Distances moved
Limiting the distance a load is moved is common sense, but often, because of poor planning or lack of thought, workers may waste their time and energy. Employers need to consider: having goods delivered as close as possible to the work areas providing easy access to loads providing easy and energy-efficient ways to move the loads.

Assessing the distances moved

use a tape measure to check the distance from the worker to the load


consider vertical distances too, and the depth of the load. Raising a load requires more effort than lowering or moving it on the same level

use a surveyors wheel or pace the area to determine the approximate distance carried or pushed etc. to check if it can be reduced

check what equipment is available to assist in moving loads, and if it is being used.


The Manual Handling Code of Practice says the weight of the load must be considered in relation to other key risk factors including, in particular: a) frequency and duration b) position of load relative to the body c) distance moved d) characteristics of the load.

Lifting, lowering and carrying loads

The Code provides some guidelines for lifting, lowering and carrying loads: in seated work, it is advisable not to lift loads in excess of 4.5 kg some evidence shows that the risk of back injury increases significantly with objects above the range of 16 -20 kg, therefore, from the standing position, it is advisable to keep the load below or within this range; as weight increases from 16 kg up to 55 kg the percentage of healthy adults who can safely lift, lower or carry the weight decreases. Therefore, more care is required for weights above 16 kg and up to 55kg in the assessment process. Mechanical assistance and / or team lifting arrangements should be provided to reduce the risk of injury associated with these heavier weights, and generally, no person should be required to lift, lower or carry loads above 55 kg, unless mechanical assistance or team lifting arrangements are provided to lower the risk of injury. The speed that a load is lifted can also affect the amount of stress on the spine a sudden lift doubling the stress. The use of mechanical aids is particularly important when loads are heavy. Trolleys, hoists and conveyors all reduce the need for the worker to support the load.

Sliding, pushing and pulling loads

For sliding, pushing and pulling the Code suggests: the object should not be difficult to move employees should not have to exert a large force while seated, and if employees have to push or pull while seated, they need good seating and solid foot support. It is also important to consider: greater force can be applied using pushing and pulling rather than lifting, as the body weight can be used to advantage pushing is better than pulling, as its easier to use body weight and safer if you fall over the surface on which a load is pulled may create significant friction the position of the handles should allow an upright, not bent over posture forces used should not be too high and should be steady and predictable


posture of the person should be forward-facing, not twisted correct non-slip footwear must be worn forces should be applied smoothly forces that encourage twisting or lateral / across the body movements should be avoided.

Risks to the body with heavy weights or forces

Discs Discs can withstand a degree of downwards and sideways force, particularly when they are young and healthy, but as we age the discs become less spongy and they narrow. With extreme force applied, discs can rupture, or more commonly they gradually develop small tears over time. Because of the fluid in young peoples discs they tend to have acute tears, whereas older people have disc degeneration problems. Muscles If a muscle is overstretched through unexpected load bearing or from exerting effort while in a poor position, the muscle can become strained. Muscular spasm is another painful problem, which is the sudden involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. It occurs when the nerve supplying the muscle is irritated. Ligaments Ligaments can be over-stretched causing instability at the joint, or can be understretched and tighten up, reducing movement. So working with loads and force can pose two main risks. One is the risk of a sudden traumatic event, such as a disc rupture or acute musculoligamentous strain. The other is more insidious gradual change but both can result in chronic problems.

Assessing the weights and forces

Lifting a spring balance from a fishing shop or a set of scales can assess weight. Pulling a spring balance can also give a rough guide to pulling forces. The spring can be attached to one end, then the spring is pulled until the load moves. The peak force is the force required to overcome friction and initiate movement, whereas a much smaller force is required to maintain movement.

Pushing and restraining sophisticated equipment, such as force platforms and electromyography, must be used to get accurate readings on these forces, although observation and information from workers can provide an indication there is a problem.



Risk factors
Some things to consider in relation to the load or equipment are: dimensions awkward or bulky to hold or move stability moving or fluid loads rigidity collapsing or floppy items predictability liable to move or jerk without warning surface texture slippery, greasy, dirty loads temperature may require personal protective equipment grips appropriate position handles access and positioning.

The most difficult loads to manage are live loads, such as animals or people who may move independently or pull or fall against the worker. These worksites need very thorough assessment to ensure the most appropriate controls can be chosen.

Dimensions of loads
The Code recommends maximum dimensions for loads if they are to be held in front of the body:

50 cm wide, 30 cm long, and no more than 75 cm long for two dimensions.

The figures on load dimensions are based on research that shows that large or bulky objects will cause an increased metabolic rate and higher spinal stresses, particularly if the load is wide or long. The long and wide load increases stress on the spine as the centre of gravity is away from the body.

Assessing the characteristics of the load

Some methods of assessment include: checking if the contents of a load are known, and ideally, labelled and weighed measuring the dimensions of the load handling the load to determine the other characteristics checking the height, positioning and ease of access to the pushing area or handles, if it is a load that will be pushed.


Work organisation refers to the organisation of staffing, shifts, rest breaks, equipment, maintenance schedules, task variety, and general workplace policies and procedures. Some of the risks of poor work organisation include: poor flow, with bottlenecks and sudden rushes insufficient staffing causing inability to do team lifting or to seek assistance


inadequate rest breaks, leading to muscle fatigue and reduced coordination lack of maintenance of equipment and tools lack of training in the safest work methods.

Assessment of work organisation

When worksites are reviewing their work organisation they should check for records of: staffing rosters to see if this matches the busiest times and if there is any association with past injuries or accidents maintenance schedules do they exist? Are they being followed? Is someone taking responsibility for them? procedures for reporting unsafe or broken equipment.


It is also important to assess the general work environment as it can affect how safely and easily a manual handling task can be done. Some of the main points are: space sufficient space to use safe manual handling methods, eg. room to crouch down rather than bend over temperature and humidity cold temperatures increase the likelihood of muscle and joint sprains and strains, and very hot temperatures and high humidity contribute to fatigue and a reduction in physical capacity lighting should be sufficient for safety and ease of work, especially for stairs, walkways, storerooms etc floor/surfaces it is difficult to walk over uneven or slippery ground and hard surfaces are more tiring for the back housekeeping cluttered and untidy areas may restrict movements and pose a hazard for trips and falls noise loud noises not only distract, but can upset balance ventilation must be sufficient, as stuffy rooms contribute to feelings of fatigue vibration can contribute to back injuries, particularly in poor plant / equipment seating.


Assessment of the environment

A checklist using the above factors can provide a rough guide of the environment, and a closer assessment can be performed with the relevant Australia Standards for the industry and for the task. For example, Standards regarding whole body vibration, air quality and floor friction may be useful in determining if the environment permits workers to perform manual handling tasks with safety.


To ensure that workers have sufficient skills to manage the manual handling components of their jobs the Code recommends training in: manual handling hazards recognising and evaluating tasks to select the appropriate manual handling techniques the job and in general safety practices specific techniques, such as for heavy manual handling.

Dont overlook the importance of a workers experience in the position as well.

Assessing skills and experience

Some things to check include: there is a routine process of induction for new staff training is organised, with regular reviews more experienced staff can help train new employees eg. through a buddy system if the employee is capable of the physical demands of the task.

Under 18s
There is more risk of injury, as a young persons body is still physically developing. It is recommended that no more than 16 kg be lifted without mechanical aids. Employers must consider students on work experience or other young people on their worksite as well as their employees. Evidence also suggests that workers performing very heavy physical work in their early twenties have an accelerated rate of musculoskeletal injuries as they age.

Older workers
Studies have found the following bodily changes that affect manual handling ability may occur with ageing: physical work capacity decreases range of lumbar spinal motion decreases lumbar disc shock absorption reduces lumbar discs degenerate.

Older workers may therefore be more at risk with physically demanding tasks. However, according to the Code, to counter this: older workers may be able to compensate any physical loss by their experience and skill at the task.


Assessing age
It is useful to be aware of workers age groups, particularly those 18 and under. Young workers should not be in positions requiring heavy manual handling even if they appear fit and strong and some older workers may have specific physical limitations. Consultation with people regarding their physical capability is important as people of the same age often have quite different physical skills.

When determining if clothing is a risk to safe manual handling consider: tight clothing can restrict movements straight skirts can restrict crouching and climbing protective clothing is required if workers cannot or do not want to hold the load against their clothing arms and legs may need to be covered if material is sharp or irritates the skin loose or flowing garments can become caught in plant or tangled in manual handling processes footwear must be appropriate to the setting specific personal protective equipment may be required to perform the task safely, eg. the use of gloves, or a hair net etc.

Assessing clothing
When assessing clothing at a worksite, it is necessary to know exactly what the tasks are in order to know what sort of clothing or footwear is most appropriate. A company may want to develop guidelines for their workers or suggest a uniform that has the features that are needed to perform the required manual handling tasks safely.


Special needs refers to both permanent and temporary conditions or situations where a worker requires some extra consideration. Some common situations include: returning from sick leave or recreation leave and being out of condition having an existing injury or medical condition, whether or not it is work-related, eg. a heart condition where working overhead or climbing stairs may be too demanding, or Occupational Overuse Syndrome in the forearm, where using forceful or repeated wrist movements might aggravate the condition being pregnant, so avoiding using maximum force in manual handling having a visual or hearing impairment having a learning disability or being unable to follow complex instructions reading or writing difficulty being on medication where certain tasks are not permitted, eg. antihistamines and antidepressants can affect safe operations of machinery.


Peoples moods and feelings can also increase or reduce their manual handling capacity. For example, there would probably be an increase in manual handling ability for someone who was encouraged or offered a prize for lifting a certain amount. On the other hand, someone feeling unhappy or depressed would probably suffer a decrease in stamina and physical capacity. As all of these issues can affect the way a person manages a manual handling task, a supervisor needs to be aware of workers special needs and make allowances for them. This does not mean giving them easy jobs, but giving them tasks that they can perform well and without risk to themselves and other staff.


Different industries and different tasks involving manual handling may require other risk factors to be assessed. This may include issues related to working at heights, working with heavy personal protective gear such as breathing apparatus etc.

Gender issues
The most obvious differences in men and women relate to anthropometry (or size), biomechanics and physiology. A range of international studies has found the following key points when comparing average men and women: womens physical capacity is approximately two-thirds of mens (largely due to smaller body weight and body size) womens strength in lifting is 60 76 per cent of mens, and in specific tasks may be only 30 per cent (eg. in lifting above chest height). The important thing to remember is that these are just averages. When assessing risk factors, it is important to consider the individual, whether a man or a woman. A man or a woman may be smaller or larger than average, or weaker or stronger.

Risk assessment involves looking at each of the factors described in this guideline. Each factor must be considered on its own, and then in relation to the other factors.

Interaction of the factors

Risk factors interact with each other. For example, a load moved may be very light (weights and forces), but if this task is performed by bending and twisting the back (actions and movements) and accessing a bin underneath a table (workplace and workstation layout), the task becomes hazardous. The task would become even more hazardous if it had to be performed for long periods (duration and frequency).


Alternatively, a load could be very heavy, such as a large person sitting in a wheelchair. If the tyres or wheels on the chair are well maintained (characteristics of loads and equipment) and if the floor surface is level and vinyl (work environment) the task of pushing the wheelchair may be simple. However, moving the same person up a carpeted ramp, in a wheelchair that has flat or damaged wheels could pose a major manual handling problem for some workers. These examples show the interaction between the factors, and how important it is to review each factor. The number of risk factors in different tasks cannot necessarily be compared. For example, a task with seven risk factors may not be as hazardous as one with only two risk factors. A risk assessment team with some knowledge and experience of the task is best placed to determine how urgent the problem is. The team may consider the likelihood of the task creating an injury and the severity of the possible injury.

A good risk assessment leads to appropriate controls

Risk assessment is clearly a vital part of understanding manual handling problems. The best control, or combination of controls, can be implemented when all of the risks are known leading to the reduction or the elimination of all the risk factors. For instance, just altering the weight of a load to make it more manageable will not address the problem of the load being stored under a workbench both risks need to be addressed. Although risk assessment takes some time, it is time well spent. Incorrect controls can cause other problems and can be expensive to rectify. The best controls are only achieved following a thorough risk assessment.

In summary:
performing a risk assessment on tasks identified as a risk to health and safety is required by law assessments must be done by employers in consultation with employees each of the risk factors described in this guidelines must be assessed, and any others considered relevant to the task should also be assessed a good risk assessment will point to appropriate controls.



How can you present manual handling information in an interesting way? How can you help workers, managers and supervisors understand and know how to apply the techniques, skills and knowledge gained from manual handling training? These two questions are foremost in the minds of the staff who have responsibility for training but have not attended a train the trainer type course. Even with the most up-to-date manual handling training package, trainers still need to learn how to present the information using training methods that are enjoyable, memorable and understandable. This guideline answers the questions posed above by providing practical suggestions for a range of training and learning methods.

The Core Training Elements for the National Standard for Manual Handling (see Guideline 5) outlines:
the specific objectives for manual handling training training elements that are consistent with legislation and codes of practice on manual handling.


Lecturing is perhaps the most common training technique used for large groups; usually group members are trained in a location away from work. However, trainers must be aware of the many different ways of training. Both on-the-job and off-the-job training are useful methods of training, especially since the legislation requires supervisors and workers to be actively involved in the process of hazard identification, risk assessment and control. When selecting different training techniques it is important to be aware that individuals have a variety of learning styles, and each person will respond to information differently. When you are planning any educational program, consider the different learning styles used and preferred by adults. Some theorists have suggested that there are four learning styles. These styles are:

1. Activists
like hands-on experiences and enjoy new challenges respond best to active, problem solving techniques participate and work together as a team.

For example: group exercises, games and role-play.


2. Reflectors
learn from observing and reflecting on information prefer to stand back and be passive participants like to consider all of the data before becoming involved.

For example: watching videos, listening to a lecture and experiential learning.

3. Theorists
like to gather objective information and analyse it learn by constructing theories and opinions consider existing models and theories, exploring their ideas.

4. Pragmatists
want to try new activities but only with the practical application being clear like learning activities to show a link with actual situations.

For example: field trips, on-the-job training and demonstrations. When planning your next training program, try to select a variety of approaches to satisfy the different learning styles. The following table provides a checklist of a range of techniques that you may wish to select to meet the training objectives outlined in the Core Training Elements for the National Standard for Manual

Handling. This list is not exhaustive, but rather provides you with some ideas to consider.


Training objectives listed in the Core Training Elements for the National Standard for Manual Handling that should be included in your manual handling training are: describe the legislation describe the health and safety effects participate in hazard identification, risk assessment and control identify risk factors assess risks control risks communicate and consult design a management program.


Suggested methods to meet the above objectives: Methods 1 Lectures Demonstrations Panels Reading assignments Surveys, questionnaires and checklists Field trips Group problem solving Case studies Group discussions Computer-based training Role-plays Games and simulations Films and video Debates Dyads and triads Experiential learning On-the-job training Behaviour modification and modelling Questioning 2 3 Objectives 4 5 6 7 8

Lectures generally involve one person talking to a large group with only one-way communication.

ideal for a large group economical and cost effective useful for highlighting keypoints a good speaker can motivate participants good method to clarify pre-reading if there is a maximum of 20 minutes before a break for questions, anecdotes or discussion will keep people focused easy to judge the timing.

Note: short lectures are often better than full-length lectures.


learner is passive may not involve any audience participation retention rates are low insensitive to individual differences only one-way communication not appropriate for teaching motor skills presenter cannot tell if the message has been understood.

A lecture may be the best way to present the legal background to manual handling, outlining employer and employee responsibilities, and explaining that the old prescriptive legislation regarding weight limits has been replaced. Lecturing may also be useful to provide a brief overview of the process of hazard identification, risk assessment and control before practicing at a workstation or a worksite.

A demonstration is a method of telling or showing a group how to do a task or act in a situation. Generally the task is broken up into a sequence of small steps, with explanation and instruction. Initially the task or situation is demonstrated at normal speed, then performed in a series of slow steps. Participants should then be able to practice the technique or method with immediate feedback to ensure their understanding.

bridges the gap between theory and practice easy to organise effective for learning motor skills highly practical directly applicable.

can be time consuming individual sessions may be required.

Demonstration can be used effectively to highlight the health and safety effects of manual handling, especially when explaining the spine: use anatomical model of the spine use dominoes to represent the effect of movement cut a jam donut in half to show the disk and its nucleus use elastic bands to represent ligaments use lifting-man model or models of cranes to demonstrate the effects on the spine when lifting a load.


The demonstration technique is very important and useful when showing a specific method of doing a task. A demonstration by the trainer, practice by the participants and comments on the performance will help develop the skill. For example, if a manual handling task is best performed in a specific manner with a specific piece of equipment the trainer could: perform the task at normal speed repeat the task at a very slow speed, while explaining the method break the task down into very small steps, repeating it slowly, then ask learners to copy.

Using visual feedback from mirrors and responses from other learners will assist learning.

A panel involves a number of speakers, with experience in a topic who can answer questions on the topic from a group.

demonstrates a variety of views from different perspectives encourages debate and questioning good method for presenting experts or specialists in the field.

can be difficult to locate suitable panel members discussions can move off the chosen topic

a panel comprising an injured worker, a doctor, an employer and an insurance agent can explain the effect of a work injury from manual handling a panel comprising an OHS committee representative, a union representative and an employer from an organisation where such manual handling programs have been implemented can explain the value of these programs.

Reading information on selected topics provides individuals with a baseline of common knowledge, and starts them thinking about the topic to be covered.

individuals can do the reading in their own time work is done at own pace teaches the skills of locating written resources.

requires reading skills educator cannot control if the work is completed requires willpower and dedication.


Supervisors and managers responsible for workers involved with manual handling tasks can be asked to read specific sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the National Standard and Code of

Practice for Manual Handling, and then report back on their findings in staff meetings or in a formal
training session. To be able to read, interpret and then explain information requires an excellent comprehension of the issue, and is generally a more effective method of learning than being a passive listener. Alternatively, readings can be provided at the beginning of a session to small groups of participants who are then asked to go away and read them for a short period before presenting the main points to the entire group on butchers paper or overheads.


Surveys, questionnaires and checklists should be used as a tool to assist participants to see how a topic or subject affects them and their work, and help them to gain greater insight into issues. In manual handling, a number of checklists are available to assist in determining if a task has risks, and then in determining what each of the risks are. Surveys, questionnaires and checklists provide clear, documented information that can be referred to or compared for later analysis.

can be a powerful source of information uncovers specific issues for further examination encourages reflection provides a baseline of information for later comparison.

may require some training to complete may neglect other relevant issues can be intrusive.

Trainees can experience a real situation by seeing practical examples or displays of the topic. This experience, combined with the theory, can be transferred into their workplace later. The participants must be clear about the objectives of the trip. To ensure that participants cover the major points, provide them with a checklist or a list of questions.

useful for real life situations explanation and discussion can tie in theory with practice a change of scene is refreshing and can provide new experiences.


may forget the reason behind the visit may involve logistical problems.

Visits to other businesses that have implemented systems to reduce manual handling can provide tangible examples of the benefit of risk management programs. Trips to a supplier of manual handling equipment such as trolleys, conveyors, and pallet jacks can provide useful information on options for controlling identified risks in the trainees workplace.


The National Standard for Manual Handling requires employers and employees to consult together. Employers and employees benefit by being exposed to new ideas and opinions and can use them to solve problems. Brainstorming and nominal group techniques are two group consultation techniques that can be used effectively by a skilled facilitator. These techniques encourage maximum involvement and consultation with all workers. When brainstorming, the group is encouraged to generate new ideas by thinking laterally and creatively. Nominal group technique is similar except that individuals first work out their ideas independently and in a set times before sharing them with the group.

rapid way to generate ideas participative approach encourages lateral thinking.

reliant on group members participation more dominant members can take over if not controlled.

The group problem solving techniques are best used with work tasks that have been identified and assessed for manual handling tasks and workers from other sections who may see the issues differently, brainstorming on all possible ways to eliminate or reduce the risks.

A case study is a brief summary of an incident or a situation that illustrates issues or topics of interest. Case studies can be fictitious or adapted from real life. A range of true case studies are included in this Resource. Real life examples show how ideas are put into practice, illustrating what happens in an actual workplace, and what might happen to the trainee.


The trainees, using case studies, can respond to questions to check their understanding of the issues and decide how they would respond in the situation. Three methods of using case studies are: to learn how to diagnose a problem; to identify the problem and solutions; and to examine problems that have been solved and consider the implications of the actions. Case studies from other organisations can provide insights into your issues.

adds realism to the theory encourages learners to apply theory to scenarios allows the educator to check comprehension encourages group to pool ideas is a low pressure way of dealing with complex or emotive issues.

requires some understanding of the topic area can be time consuming to analyse case studies need to use credible and realistic scenarios.

The case studies section of this Resource provides real examples of how various companies have dealt with manual handling problems. They can be used to illustrate the process involved and to assist in generating options for similar or related manual handling risks in other workplaces. Other case studies to consider using in training: OHS prosecutions in WorkCover News may be of interest to management. These cases show the consequences of failing to comply with the manual handling law injured workers can provide powerful case studies of the experiences and help to explain the situation surrounding their injury and how the injury could have been prevented and to stress the importance of manual handling management programs.

Group discussions are the most basic forums to exchange ideas, knowledge and opinions and are one mechanism for consultation. They can provide learners with new insights and attitudes. A group discussion can be structured in a number of ways: posing problems or situations from prior reading; discussing information presented on audio or video tapes; or discussing opinions and ideas from existing knowledge and experience. Discussions should have a clear purpose, eg. to reach a consensus, make recommendations or to examine different aspects of the topic.

checks knowledge and understanding informal method to encourage participation less threatening in small groups


combines information giving and processing easy to arrange and useful following a lecture interactive.

can move off topic unless properly focused quiet members may not participate in big discussion groups loud or confident members can hold the floor.

Group discussion can be used to clarify some of the main themes in topics such as the legislation relating to manual handling. Some themes for discussion may include why: there is no longer a weight limit the law requires consultation good design is so important there is a hierarchy of controls.

Computer-based training is a recognised method of training employees. They encourage interactive use and the responses can be in multimedia.

learners work at their own pace can assess knowledge and comprehension of a topic through the program a relaxed learning environment reinforcement of learning as the learner can progress rapidly once each section is mastered.

requires some basic computer skills may be expensive to set up is a solitary exercise does not test practical skills.

In role-plays, a real situation or problem is simulated and participants act in given roles to experience and explore the problem in depth. Trainees are forced to consider situations from different perspectives. It is a form of experiential learning in that participants learn through the process of the exercise.


allows practice of difficult situations in a supportive environment ideal for practicing communication strategies individuals can see and experience a problem from a novel perspective memorable and enjoyable.

is often considered too threatening requires a relaxed and confident group requires a skilled facilitator to assist the process and to de-role people.

Pose a scenario, and provide a brief written description of each character in the scene for the nominated players. The scene may be the introduction of a new work system, with the supervisor trying to sell the benefits to a worker who is resistant to change, despite the serious risks identified in the old way of performing the task. The attitudes, beliefs and the concerns of the worker and supervisor can be explored in this context.


Games can be highly structured with rules and a scoring process, or more informal. They generally involve some form of competition between groups or individuals. Games are considered excellent tools for teaching problem-solving, communication, and decision-making. A game becomes a simulation when a scenario represents real life. As with a game, it allows participants to try or practice new behaviours without risking the consequences of that action.

an experiential form of learning provides a break from more serious and formal teaching methods can act as an energiser competition can act as an incentive to participate and win more memorable doing something rather than talking about it.

can lose the point of the exercise unless it is clearly explained and processed may need additional debriefing to de-role very shy members may feel uncomfortable and not participate.


Games testing skill and knowledge can be used to reinforce information learnt in manual handling training. The group can be divided into teams and scored according to: answers to quiz questions (multiple choice or true or false regarding manual handling laws and the process of hazard identification) demonstrations of the safest way to perform various manual handling tasks.


Using audiovisual aids such as television, videos or audiotapes increases the range of stimuli during training. Generally this technique is used to complement others; however it can also be used in isolation if other methods are not available. Film can provide a basis for discussing sensitive or emotive issues while allowing trainees to remain detached from the situation. Filming or videoing trainees during practice and then playing this back provides an immediate response. It also allows group members to analyse their performance.

provides variety of stimuli economical if used for large audiences or individuals at different locations ensures absolute consistency of information on given issues offers realism can involve taped presentations from a number of speakers or experts.

often is only one-way communication, so learning is passive does not check learning through the process, unless breaks for questions are scheduled expensive to produce can go out-of-date and become irrelevant.

Use video to illustrate tasks that are difficult to demonstrate or to capture information that is difficult to explain or only available at one location. Video is also a valuable tool for analysing and assessing the trainees movements and actions. The facility to use slow-motion and freeze frames is ideal for discussion. Videos of the possible equipment or work methods (as provided by equipment suppliers or taken at other work locations) can be used to determine their application in the groups work setting. This is particularly useful if a number of control options are being considered for a complex problem.

Debates can be arranged on an individual or team basis to assist in exploring different sides of issues in either a formal or informal manner. In debates, one team presents the affirmative position the other


team presents the negative, then the affirmative rebuts the negative, the negative rebuts the affirmative and finally both sides sum up. A single person or the rest of the training group can adjudicate by keeping scores.

learners are forced to hear and consider other perspectives and arguments encourages a greater comprehension of topics as learners must be able to clearly explain and defend their arguments avoids suppressing information highly interactive.

can create anxiety in learners as it requires speaking before a group learning is dependent on learners prior knowledge

Some controversial topics for debate could include: employers are totally responsible for workers health at work. back injuries are a part of life no pain, no gain.


Trainees working in pairs or in groups of three can communicate and share ideas before contributing, or instead of contributing to a large group. In these small groups, questions or statements can be posed for speculation or comment or to check understanding. This method is often used as an icebreaker.

easier to communicate in twos or threes than before a larger group encourages individual thought encourages communication with people you may not speak to otherwise triads can be useful for role-plays with an observer.

individuals may not get on with each other in triads, two people can team up against the other.

An icebreaker ask group members to introduce themselves to someone they do not know very well and talk about the type of manual handling tasks they do in their job. They can report the pertinent aspects of their discussion to the larger group. During the session ask people to form triads or dyads to discuss particular points, check for understanding and ask them to put forward their opinion.


There are different schools of thought on the definition of experiential learning, but it includes an acceptance of individuals ability to learn from their prior experience, and the value of learning by


powerful method of gaining insight a memorable method of learning.

requires careful planning easy to lose the point of the project unless it is focused.

Experiential learning can include role-playing, trying a new work method and making people learn by doing the real things, such as putting together a section of a management program for manual handling.

This is perhaps the most common method of training. Employees receive training at their workplace. On-the-job training is particularly important for workers who perform manual handling tasks as it ensures they can recognise risks and select the most appropriate way to perform the task. Previously, many workers were trained only in safe lifting techniques but now on-the-job training ensures that workers and their supervisors perform all aspects of their specific job safely.

training in real task information is pertinent and relevant to real tasks provides for immediate feedback of performance.

does not allow for any errors more threatening in a real environment is often neglected as a valid training technique as the educator often does not construct learning objectives and structure the training may assume that any existing employee has the skills to train may incorrectly assume that information can be learnt by merely watching.



Behaviourist learning theory suggests that by using reinforcement it is possible to encourage specific behaviours and eliminate or modify unwanted behaviours. If reinforcers are appropriate to the situation and given immediately following the behaviour, this technique can encourage behaviour change. Modelling behaviour relies on the learner actively observing then copying behaviours.

can encourage specific techniques that conform with required standards, eg. in tasks that must follow strict procedures useful when a task involves a method with few steps.

encourages conformity difficult finding appropriate behaviour reinforcers for each situation may be difficult to withdraw reinforcers without altering behaviours incorrect behaviours may be learnt and reinforced.

Humans tend to follow various role models and behaviours, both consciously and unconsciously. Use positive feedback and respected role models if you are trying to persuade the learners be they management or workers to adopt new ways of thinking or new behaviours. Positive feeback can be provided in tangible ways such as a reward or prize. The role model may be a highly regarded and popular employee or a management guru who has adopted aspects of the manual handling legislation and can provide positive and inspiring reasons to follow their actions.

Questioning is used to check recall, determine facts, aid memory retention, encourage participation, gain feedback and check understanding. Questions can be: directed at particular participants; broadly asked to the entire group; leading; rhetorical; closed or open. Much planning and thought should be given to setting questions. Give participants sufficient time to think and construct their answers.

an immediate method to obtain feedback wide range of applications promotes critical thinking does not restrict responses to peoples memories but allows for existing ideas and opinions as well.


can be time consuming unless properly structured some people can take over and want to answer everything.

Use questioning to check prior experience in manual handling do not assume you know everything about your group. Move from easy questioning What are the three ways of identifying risks? requiring only memory, to the more complex Explain the difference between hazard identification and risk assessment in your words? requiring some analysis.


There are a number of advantages to using groups in education and training because the group processes themselves can facilitate learning experiences. A group is not just a gathering of individuals; its members interact and work towards a common goal. The most effective groups occur when there is a clear goal, there is open two-way communication, participants are actively involved with decisions and leadership, and when the climate is supportive. When groups meet over a number of sessions, interpersonal relationships are likely to develop, and these can further enhance the learning process.


When starting a group training session, a number of techniques can assist in breaking the ice and encourage learning. The first step is to create the appropriate climate explain your training and learning philosophy and what you expect from the trainees. Introductions are necessary to help the group to feel comfortable and to get to know each other. One of the easiest ways of introduction is for people to talk in pairs, and talk about their job, their interest in /or experience with manual handling issues, or an interest or hobby that they have. The pair then takes turns to introduce each other to the group. Openers should then be used to slowly ease the group into the subject matter. This may involve a goal analysis where participants are asked to divide into small groups and make a list of their main goals for the session or the program. These are then shared with the rest of the participants, and the educator can then indicate which goals are achievable in the context and time allowed for the sessions, and add any others. A quiz is another method to introduce a subject by making the group think about the topic and consider any myths before looking further into the subject.



This checklist will help you to select a suitable mobile hoist for your work.
First, you should think about what hoists you need (the question is in section 1) will help you do this. Remember, you may need more than one type of hoist. Second, you should go through the rest of the questions for each hoist you evaluate. The checklist will help you to choose between the different hoists Try to answer every question Make plenty of comments on the form You should send a copy of this page to the supplier to complete Make sure the supplier answers the questions in section 2.

Make and model Battery operated

Mechanically operated

Capacity kg

1. Your needs analysis A. What do you want to do with the hoist?

(You should answer this section in consultation with staff.) If yes, place a tick in the box YES transfer between bed and commode or shower chair transfer between bed and bath or shower trolley transfer between bed and toilet transfer from chair to chair assist when changing continence pads transfer into and out of water chairs lifting clients off the floor transfer into and out of cars

B. What type of hoist do you need?

(Keep in mind whether client is weight bearing or non-weight bearing.)


2. Information from supplier A. Service support and other purchasing factors

Note to supplier: Please provide information on the following :

Conditions of service agreement Warranty/replacement/repair policy Availability and ease of obtaining spare parts Number of lifts before battery requires change Life of battery (before replacement) Cost of hoist, slings and battery Discounts available Provision of education/training on use of hoist to staff Training of maintenance staff Accessories available, eg. slings, different castors, commode chairs If a new model is introduced, will they service the old model? Replacement of the hoist if needed to be taken away for repairs or awaiting repairs Storage space required. YES NO

Does the hoist meet Australian Standard AS 3581-88 or equivalent? Are the parts easily available locally? Is there a separate battery charging unit with two batteries? (so that one is in use, while the other is being charged)

B. Agreement to loan hoist and attachments for two week on-site trial?

(You should answer this section in consultation with staff.)

3. Adjustment mechanism
YES Can the hoist be lowered to the floor with a client in the sling? Can the hoist be raised to go over the highest point required for your needs eg. bath, whirlpool bath etc? Is the height adjustment mechanism easy to operate whilst the hoist is in use? Is the mechanism conveniently located even for short people? Can the mechanism be operated without the operator bending? Are the control box and battery located appropriately to prevent their breakage? Comments: NO


4. Slings/straps
YES Are there instructions on how to apply the sling/strap? Are these instructions easy to follow? Can the sling/strap be applied and taken off without lifting the client? Does the sling/strap stay in place after the hoist is activated? Is the sling/strap acceptable to the clients dignity? Can the sling/strap be put on and taken off by one person? Do the slings and straps come in different sizes? Are there a variety of slings available with the hoist eg. full body or toileting? Are the sling/strap and its attachments strong? Does the sling or other attachment restrain the client safely eg. if behaviour violent or disorientated? Is correct sling/strap placement obvious and simple? Is the sling/strap comfortable for the client? Is the client safe from accidentally falling through the sling? NO


5. Brakes
YES Are there central locking brakes? Are the brakes easy to engage and disengage? Is the brake pedal conveniently located (accessible and visible)? Is the hoist steady when the brakes are on? NO



6. Useability
YES Do the legs widen easily for stability? Can the hoist be folded up for storage? Can the hoist be operated confidently after one or two training sessions? Can you position yourself close to the client while operating the controls? Are the instructions for capacity and sling sizes on the frame of the hoist? Can you use it in the bath or shower? NO


7. Safety
YES Is the hoist free of protruding parts that could cause injury? Is the hoist free of trapping hazards for fingers, hands, and so on? Are all the parts of the hoist involved in supporting the client firmly attached? Is there an emergency stop (electric)? Is the client safe from accidentally hitting his/her head on the boom? Can the client hold on somewhere on the hoist for security? Comments: NO

8. Cleaning and maintenance

YES Is the hoist easy to clean and without potential dirt traps? Are the slings and straps easy to wash and dry? Comments: NO


9. Transportation
YES Is the hoist easy to move over different floor surfaces when loaded? Does the hoist fit into the bathroom? Does the hoist fit into the toilet? Does the hoist fit under the bed? Is steering easy for one person when loaded? Is the hoist easy to store? NO

(Does it require large amounts of storage space?) Comments:

10. Compatibility of components

YES Can other manufacturers slings be used with the hoist? Does it come with attachments such as commode chair, Jordan frame or other specialised needs? Comments: NO


(You should answer this section in consultation with staff.)

11. Trial period

(It is important that staff trial the hoist prior to purchase. Make sure that the hoist is demonstrated to all staff at the beginning of the trial period. Ask staff to use it as much as possible. The hoist should be used on all shifts during this time. Attach a comment book to the hoist for staff opinions and comments.) YES Has the hoist been trialled? Does the hoist meet your needs as stated in Question 1? NO

12. Outcome of trial

YES Will you purchase the hoist/s? NO


Contact the WorkCover Assistance Service on 13 10 50

This Guide is not intended to provide comprehensive information about the prevention of the occupational health and safety hazards set out in the Guide and does not affect a persons legal obligations under the

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000. Also, any reference to an employer in a case study does not
imply any endorsement or approval of the employer or their products.




MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM MANUAL HANDLING PROGRAM 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Introduction Set aims and objectives Obtain management commitment Develop a manual handling policy Review existing manual handling policies and procedures Develop a program Provide training in manual handling Promote awareness Allocate responsibilities Set up a consultation process Keep records Identify area to trial program Implement hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control Implement the program throughout the organisation Evaluate the manual handling program


3 4 5 6 9 10 14 15 16 18 19 21


22 23 24


This publication is a practical guide for putting in place a manual handling program. It was developed from the experience of a variety of organisations which showed that a specific program to reduce the risks of manual handling injury was needed. A knowledge of the process of identification, assessment and control of manual handling risks, as outlined in the Ocupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 and the National Standard and Code

of Practice for Manual Handling, is assumed in this document.

What is a manual handling program?

A manual handling program is a structured and systematic way of addressing risks of manual handling injuries. It would typically be planned as a project with clearly stated aims, responsibilities and a timetable for completion. At the end of the program the organisation should have the skills and an on-going system to manage manual handling risks as part of its overall occupational health and safety management.

Why have a manual handling program?

Manual handling is one of many potential dangers to health and safety in a workplace. Managing the risks of manual handling is therefore part of an employers responsibility under the Occupational

Health and Safety Act 2000. There is no specific legal requirement to implement a structured manual
handling program, however there are legal requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety

Regulation 2001 for an employer to identify hazards, eliminate the risks or control the risks. There are
also Australian Standards that are written as guidance material on managing systems and risks. These are: AS/NZS 4804:2001 Occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS) General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques AS/NZS 4360:1999 Risk management AS/NZS 4801:2001 OHSMS Specification with guidance.

Some reasons for implementing a manual handling program are: Manual handling accounts for about a third of lost time injuries and workers compensation costs in NSW. However, in many organisations manual handling risks have been given less than their fair share of attention. A manual handling program is a way to redress the balance. Without a comprehensive and systematic program it would be easy to overlook some areas where risks and/or barriers to achieving legal compliance remain. Implementing the manual handling program involves consultation between all areas of an organisation and can help bring about positive additional change between managers and staff.

Why do you set aims and objectives?
Setting aims and objectives allows everyone involved in the manual handling program to work towards a common purpose. Additionally, the aims and objectives can be assessed from time to time to measure the programs success.

How do you set aims and objectives?

You should consult everyone to get an agreement on the aims and objectives of the program. This agreement of aims and objectives will ensure staff own and carry out the processes required to reduce manual handling. In general, the aim is what your organisation expects to achieve with the manual handling program. For example: To reduce the cost and number of manual handling injuries within the organisation. Objectives are the key components of the program that need to happen to achieve the aim. For example: To assess, in accordance with the National Standard and Code of Practice for Manual Handling, all identified manual handling tasks that are a risk, at a rate of one per month per work area.

Good objectives should be: Specific: so that everyone knows exactly what is intended and there is no ambiguity Measurable: so that everyone can assess to what extent they have achieved what they said they should be able to. Achievable: an objective that cannot be achieved by staff will fail Relevant: completing the objectives must make some difference in reducing injuries at work Traceable: so that staff will know where they are up to and how they are progressing towards the overall aim of the program. In other words your objectives should be SMART.

Why obtain management commitment?
Management commitment ensures the long-term success of any workplace program. A written statement of commitment signed by management is much more durable and binding on all employees at work than a verbal statement.

How to obtain management commitment?

Management commitment can be obtained by: 1. Presenting legal requirement Outline managements legal responsibilities by referring to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, OHS Regulation 2001 and National Standard and Code of Practice for Manual Handling. 2. Presenting the costs associated with manual handling injuries A cost benefit analysis associated with manual handling injuries and prevention should be presented to management. These costs should include direct costs of manual handling injuries, workers compensation premiums, decreased productivity, replacement and training of personnel and wastage. 3. Presenting additional corporate benefits Corporate objectives can often be linked with the manual handling program. For example, a quality management approach to implementing projects/programs in the organisation can be coordinated with the manual handling program.

Case study obtaining management commitment

The workplace health and safety unit of a large organisation discovered that the workers compensation costs associated with manual handling injuries were excessive. The unit decided that the organisation needed a manual handling program to reduce the costs due to manual handling injuries. The proposal included costs associated with workers compensation as well as other costs and benefits. Firstly, they estimated the cost of paper and foil wastage when delicate products were manually handled. They did this by physically measuring the amount of foil dumped over a day. The wastage was excessive and costly. One of the solutions proposed was the use of specific mechanical lifting devices and trolleys to reduce wastage and the risk of injury. Secondly, they linked the system of implementing the manual handling program with the corporate objectives. At that time a major corporate objective of the organisation was to organise work through teams. Management was convinced by the proposal and approved the manual handling program. The credibility of the occupational health and safety unit increased among the production staff because of the success of the program. Additionally, the unit was seen as a useful part of the business rather than an imposition. The success of the program also improved management responses to other workplace health and safety initiatives. The success of the program was achieved by the consultative, teamwork approach adopted by the workplace health and safety unit.

Management commitment checklist

1. Chief executive officers, managing directors and senior managers demonstrate their commitment to occupational health and safety management by getting involved in: YES developing OHS strategies, objectives, systems, etc. providing the necessary resources: human financial 2. OHS is included as a critical success factor in business planning 3. OHS indicators are part of all senior management performance evaluations 4. Job descriptions include OHS management NO

What is a manual handling policy?
A manual handling policy is a formal commitment by senior management to reducing manual handling injuries. The policy should reflect issues faced by the organisation and the commitment of management. The checklist and examples below provide a summary of information that should be included in a policy.

Why have a separate manual handling policy?

A separate written manual handling policy encourages staff to work towards a common purpose of eliminating manual handling risks. The policy can be used as an important mechanism to change attitude towards manual handling within your organisation.

How do you develop a policy?

An effective policy can be developed by involving both management and employees. The policy should include: a statement of the purpose and an expression of your organisations commitment to controlling manual handling injuries the standard /aims expected from carrying out a manual handling program an outline of how manual handling injuries will be controlled the resources to be provided the responsibilities and accountabilities of relevant positions how the policy will be reviewed and the time frame to meet the objectives.

All employees should be informed about the policy. Employees who have difficulty with English may require translations of the policy in their own languages. The manual handling policy should be part of your induction program and explained during refresher training. You should review the policy from time to time.

Manual handling policy checklist

Does your manual handling policy contain: YES NO a statement of purpose the established objectives a time frame a statement explaining how it will be implemented and reviewed a statement of management commitment the responsibilities and accountabilities of positions an outline of how manual handling risks will be controlled including resources to be provided.

Example of Policy [Company Name]

Manual Handling Policy

[Company Name] is committed to providing and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for employees and visitors. We are committed to preventing and reducing injuries associated with manual handling and ensuring that [Company Name] complies with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 and the

Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001.

We will achieve this by: promoting and supporting a consultative process between employees and managers ensuring that all manual handling tasks likely to be a risk to health and safety are assessed and control measures are implemented to eliminate or reduce the risk designing out problems with equipment, procedures and the workplace surroundings supporting a special program for addressing manual handling issues in all Divisions by the end of [year]. Managers are accountable for ensuring that the OHS Act 2000 and the OHS Regulation 2001 is implemented within their area of responsibility and that employees receive adequate training to safely perform their tasks. Every employee is encouraged to raise and discuss manual handling issues of concern so that we continuously improve our health and safety performance.

Managing Director
(or equivalent)


Note: this policy should be sent to all managers plus supervisors (with suitable explanation, eg. briefing session) and displayed where all employees can see it.

Why review existing manual handling policies and procedures?
Reviewing the manual handling policies and procedures from time to time is a way of measuring how much has been achieved by your organisation. Once you have established your achievements, changes to the policies and programs can be identified and planned as required.

How to review existing policies and procedures?

1. Critically review all documents relating to policies and procedures by checking that they are clear and achievable. Do your procedures cover the following: Training Is training provided regularly and to all new employees, or when a new work practice or equipment is introduced? Does training comply with the OHS Act 2000, OHS Regulation 2001 and the Core training elements for the National Standard for Manual Handling? Hazard and incident reporting Is there a system of identifying hazards and assessing and controlling manual handling incidents within a given period? Are incident statistics reviewed regularly? Is management kept informed of these incidents and statistics? Purchasing Are there systems in place to ensure that the design stage of purchasing new equipment identifies any forseeable manual handling hazards? Maintenance Are there systems in place to ensure that maintenance of equipment is carried out on a regular basis? 2. Obtain the cooperation of staff who are able to manage or help in carrying out the hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control processes required under the OHS legislation.

Why develop a manual handling program?
A manual handling procedure should be developed to ensure that a safe system of controlling manual handling risks exists in the workplace. A manual handling procedure ensures that the system of controlling manual handling risks in each area of the organisation is repeatable, reliable, traceable and is safe to use.

How do you develop a program?

A procedure should be very specific, with step by step directions for the activity. To develop a procedure you need to: 1. Consult with all relevant persons (employees, suppliers etc.) 2. Get to know the area for which you are developing the procedure. You can then decide whether the procedure can be integrated into existing procedures. For example, manual handling procedures may be included in a general purchasing procedure. 3. Document the different stages of the activity and be prepared for likely problems by including alternative steps. The stages can be written in a range of formats, including work instructions, flow diagrams, guidelines or checklists. 4. Review and test the procedure with experienced employees before carrying it out. Then plan to regularly review the procedures so that any alterations in work practices, equipment, etc. are taken into account. Note: Manufacturers and designers are required to provide safe equipment. Develop a list of useful suppliers who are aware of workplace health and safety and use them.

Program checklist
The procedure should include: YES a statement of purpose the standards required eg. from a policy or code of practice specific steps which will ensure achievement of standards and control measures responsibilities and accountabilities a clear statement of any action which will be taken against those who do not follow the procedure NO


Example of procedure
The example of a manual handling program shown below can be adapted to your needs.

[Company Name]

Manual handling procedural plan

to minimise the number and the severity of manual handling injuries at [Company Name]. to comply with all aspects of the NSW OHS Act 2000 and the Occupational Health and Safety

Regulation 2001.

This procedure will apply to all staff at [Company Name] and requires the full cooperation and assistance of all employees.

NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 NSW Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 National Code of Practice for Manual Handling 1990.

1. The companys Occupational Health and Safety Committee (or Health and Safety representatives) will be responsible for the regular and continuous review of the Manual Handling Program. This will be included on the agenda of each health and safety committee meeting. 2. Each of the companys five departments will be responsible for the regular and continuous assessment of manual handling tasks within their assigned area. Designated departments and supervisors:

Production Dispatch Maintenance/Garage Sales/Distribution Administration

* [Name] * [Name] * [Name] * [Name] * [Name]

3. Departmental Supervisors will be responsible for ensuring that, during the identification, assessment and control of manual handling tasks, the following health and safety representatives will be involved:

Production Dispatch Maintenance/Garage Sales/Distribution Administration

* [Name] * [Name] * [Name] * [Name] * [Name]


The employee who regularly undertakes the manual handling task that is being assessed, must also be involved during this process. 4. It will be the responsibility of the companys training officer to coordinate the successful implementation of identification, assessment and control of manual handling tasks with each department to the agreed schedule. The training officer will ensure that all completed assessments are filed in a manner that will allow the assessments to be easily located and identified for the purpose of evaluation by both the company and inspectors of WorkCover NSW. 5. Employees who have been provided with appropriate training in the use of mechanical aids and manual handling techniques will be responsible for carrying out their duties in accordance with the training provided.

Training will be provided, within one month of signing of this Procedural Plan, to both management representatives and health and safety representatives on the application of the OHS Act 2000 and the

OHS Regulation 2001 and the use of the Manual Handling Code of Practice. Further training will be
provided to employees, within six months, in the use of the OHS legislation. Where a manual handling task is assessed as a risk, the risk should be eliminated. If higher control methods are assessed as not practical then employees will be provided with appropriate training in manual handling techniques for that manual handling task to allow the task to be carried out safely.

All departments are required to list their top four priorities of manual handling within one month of attendance at the proposed training program. This must be done in consultation with all employees the relevant health and safety representative of that department. Each department will be required to carry out one manual handling assessment every month from the time of compiling the priority lists. At the end of each 12-month period all departments must have completed the required number of manual handling assessments.

Manual Handling Program

How assessments are to be carried out by departments: 1. Identify which task will be assessed, using the priority list developed by each department. 2. The identification will be completed using the relevant Risk Identification Checklist or the National

Code of Practice Manual Handling 1990.

3. Following the identification stage, if a task requires further assessment this must be done using the Risk Assessment Checksheets provided by the training officer or the National Code of Practice

Manual Handling 1990.

NOTE: Assessments must be done in as much detail as possible and should contain a description of the task. 4. Following the assessment stage, where it has been established that there is a risk of manual handling injuries, the company is required to eliminate the risk or, if not practical, take control actions.


5. When developing the risk control plan, time frames and responsibilities must be included for expected implementation of the risk control measures. Employers in the work area will be appropriately trained in new procedures or equipment. 6. When the control plan has been either fully or partly adopted, evaluation of the adopted solutions will be undertaken by the Health and Safety Committee or by a person nominated by the committee. This will be done in consultation with the relevant department.

Incidents and injuries

Where an incident or injury has taken place as a result of manual handling, an immediate assessment of this task will take place. This will be given priority above any manual handling tasks which are currently being assessed in the department where the accident occurred.

Design and purchasing

Persons responsible for planning and design of production methods, equipment and particular work tasks that will create or affect any manual handling task in the plant, must ensure that they consult with the relevant department supervisor, health and safety representative and employees prior to final decisions being taken, and the results reported to the Health and Safety Committee and the training officer. Persons responsible for purchasing must ensure that such consultation has occurred and that trialling of various options for equipment or packaging occurs before purchasing.







Adapted from Managing manual handling risk.


Why provide training?
Training enables staff to develop an awareness and an understanding of the manual handling process. Staff can also practice some of the skills required and use them in their own workplace. The law places special responsibility on training supervisors, occupational health and safety committee members and other designated people to carry out the hazard identification, risk assessment and control processes. In addition, all personnel must be aware of the manual handling program and the procedures and their own role in the program. Staff who do manual handling tasks should be trained in the safest method of performing those tasks, including the use of any equipment provided.

Selecting a trainer?
When selecting a trainer, it may be useful to request: trainers experience and qualifications understanding of the OHS legislation (not just safe lifting) referees method of training and outline of content.

Note: Provide training on-site for employees on night shifts. Training must take place at a time suitable for employees, not the trainer.

Training checklist
Is manual handling part of induction training? Are employees trained when they move positions? Are employees trained when new procedures or equipment is introduced? Is attendance at training recorded in personnel files? Are copies of the training information available? Is the training based on Core Training Elements for the National Standard for Manual Handling1?



National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (1995) Core Training Elements for the National Standard for Manual

Handling, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.


Why promote the manual handling program?
Manual handling programs should be promoted to encourage employees commitment to the process of controlling manual handling risks. One way of gaining this commitment is by consulting the employees and promoting the program.

How do I promote?
The methods of promoting the program depend on the size and the existing communication culture of the organisation. Some suggested methods include: using regular presentations at supervisor briefings using noticeboards using news bulletins using incentive awards for successful systems (for example, awards could be given to work units who have identified, assessed and controlled manual handling risks). Promote the program whenever possible and use different styles and formats of presentation to maintain interest.


Why allocate responsibilities?
Allocating responsibilities at the beginning of the program allows everyone to understand and clarify their individual role and duty. This will ensure that the agreed activities will happen and misunderstandings are quickly clarified. The allocation of roles and responsibilities depends on the organisation and the existing arrangements. Note: Include occupational health and safety components in the individual performance reviews. Key issues to consider when allocating responsibilities: One senior manager should have overall responsibility for the manual handling program. A manual handling coordinator could be: a. a new temporary position if the organisation is large b. a member of the occupational health and safety committee c. a manager in a smaller business d. a staff member.

Suggested roles and responsibilities

Senior management
1. sets the manual handling policy and program for the organisation in consultation with employees or their representatives. 2. monitors the progress of the program. 3. authorises the expenditure for control measures. The authority to fund control measures may involve giving different levels of authority to area managers, supervisors, work teams, the OHS committee and the manual handling coordinator.

OHS committee
1. actively develops the manual handling program. 2. continually reviews the manual handling program and makes recommendations. 3. reviews quarterly reports from the manual handling coordinator. 4. provides quarterly report to management.

Manual handling coordinator

The coordinator should have sufficient authority, delegated from senior management, to ensure all work areas or departments participate in the program. The coordinator should ensure that appropriate resources are available and utilised.


The manual handling coordinator should: 1. coordinate and maintain a summary of tasks to be assessed in work areas. 2. monitor the time frames allocated by work areas for tasks to be assessed. 3. determine, in conjunction with the work area assessors and employees, the appropriate control plans and recommendations to the OHS committee. 4. liaise with work area supervisors regarding the plans for controlling manual handling injuries. 5. assist work areas to evaluate the manual handling control plans. 6. ensure that a manual handling task summary is kept up-to-date and control plans developed at an agreed pace. 7. assist with organising special assistance for any control activity. 8. present quarterly reports to the OHS committee, which include: a list of completed assessments recommended control plans and time frames for activities evaluation of controls carried out report of activities not carried out or delayed.

Work area teams

The manager/supervisor and the OHS representatives should: 1. identify and rank tasks for assessment. 2. schedule activities in consultation with employees. 3. provide completed assessments to the manual handling coordinator and assist in recommending appropriate solutions. 4. evaluate plans for controlling manual handling. 5. provide regular reports and advice to the manual handling coordinator.

Individual staff / employees

All employees should be trained to participate in the manual handling program. They should be encouraged to participate throughout the manual handling program. The employees should also be encouraged to report accidents and incidents involving injury or near misses to the supervisor or their OHS representatives.


10. SET UP
Why consult?
The law requires employees and employers to consult at all stages of the manual handling program. Consultation allows for the development of most effective solutions because the people doing the tasks know the details of the tasks. Consultation also encourages ownership of the program.

How to consult?
First, review the existing consultation mechanisms. Then start by discussing issues with the OHS committee, OHS representatives, specific work groups, employee representatives and management. Some of the issues you should discuss are: 1. the requirement and availability of information. 2. training for staff including night shift, non-English speakers, people with reading difficulties and casual employees. 3. reporting of manual handling risks. 4. confidential and privacy matters. 5. methods of communication between different work divisions. 6. appropriate management of cross-divisional matters.



Why record?
You should record the appropriate information to demonstrate that you have met the requirements of the OHS Act 2000 and OHS Regulation 2001. The records will provide: a useful way of keeping track of the progress of your program assistance in promoting the program information for reporting purposes.

What do I record?
You should keep records of: the policies and procedures the identification process, including details of why one task was given priority over another and the people consulted assessments, including details of who was consulted and the task, equipment or method of work they were consulted about the controls selected for each task, including details of why one control was selected over another. Time frames for short, medium and long-term controls and the names of people consulted should also be recorded. Review and evaluation of controls to ensure they are still effective in a period of time. progress sheets for each work area training programs, and who has received training.

All paperwork should be dated and signed.

Paperwork checklist
All paperwork should: be relevant to the worksites workforce and conditions be dated and list the name of persons responsible be reviewed for relevance and updated regularly have procedures that are easy to understand and in relevant languages be developed in consultation with employees and employer show an obvious link between OHS procedures and other business procedures. YES NO



Division Work area Contact person Phone

Control Plan Manual Handling Task Date to be Assessed Date Prepared Implementation Date(s)

Actual Date

Evaluation Comments (Date)











Line Manager/Supervisor Health and Safety Representatives


Work/Area Department Manual Handling Tasks Assessed Control Implemented (Yes/No) Evaluation/Comments Unresolved Issues



Why trial the manual handling program?
A trial of the manual handling program, limited to a specific area of work, will help identify any teething problems you are likely to have with the program. The trial will provide an opportunity for you to eliminate or control the problems before conducting a program throughout the organisation.

How do I trial a manual handling program?

Trial the program by: selecting a manageable work area where staff are interested in preventing manual handling injuries. Our experience suggests that it is easier to trial programs in a stable work area that has a record of manual handling injuries or near misses identifying the people who will be involved in carrying out the program in the trial area consulting the people involved and identifying the objectives they would like to achieve and setting the guidelines for evaluation consulting the employees in that area throughout the program getting the chief executive officer or a senior manager to introduce the objectives of the pilot manual handling program to the area organising both specialist and general training for the pilot area. You can take this opportunity to train members of the OHS committee, purchasing and other managers / supervisors developing the paperwork required for hazard identification, risk assessment and control processes.


Listed below are three issues that you need to consider during the hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control phases of the manual handling program. 1. Set realistic time frames for undertaking assessments. For example, one assessment per month per work area is adequate. Sometimes two or more assessments may assist other routine reports such as the monthly work plan. 2. Specify the actual time for completion of control action plans. For example, short-term control may be for four to six weeks. 3. Review the options of controlling manual handling injuries to determine whether the new methods of work: are being used are working as planned are effective in reducing the risk of manual handling injury are not increasing the risk of injury by introducing new risk factors or increasing the existing assessed risks.

Helpful hints
Sometimes your insurance company may help with the risk management process as part of its customer service. Ask them. Successful identification, assessment and control of a simple task allows everyone to understand and see the improvements gained through the process. Some of the greatest risks are at night or during busy periods. The project teams area conducting risk assessments during these periods should ensure that there are adequate staff available to do the work. To assist in the assessment it may assist to video the task during busy periods and then review it when it is quieter. Use a simple questionnaire to check if the controls for manual handling injuries are having the desired results. Carry out a complete audit six months after moving into new premises or existing premises that have been redesigned. An audit after six months allows employees to notice and verify health and safety problems at work.


First, review and discuss the results of the trialled manual handling program with all employees and health and safety committee and management. Second, gradually carry out the program throughout the organisation using the agreed and successful aspects of the initial trial as your model.


Why evaluate the manual handling program?
Regular evaluation ensures that the manual handling program is meeting its stated objectives. The evaluation may identify variations to the program which can be corrected to meet the objectives. On the other hand, the variations may highlight problems with the original objectives. These objectives can be rechecked and corrected to improve the effectiveness of the program: evaluation of the manual handling program should be included in the original aims and objectives of the program. regular and successful evaluation of manual handling programs and other health and safety programs may help increase the credibility and reputation of health and safety personnel within the organisation.

How to evaluate the manual handling program?

You may evaluate the program: by consulting with employees and planning the procedures for evaluating the manual handling program by using a combination of measures that include both incident data and information on the actual process of the program by deciding on the best way to collect the information. Some of the issues to consider when collecting information are: time frames access to data persons responsible for collecting the information tools, eg. audits that can be used to measure results. Do not limit yourself to evaluating changes in incident data. The data can be misleading because: back injuries are often the result of years of accumulated damage, rather than a single event so it can be a long time before injury data show the effects of improved work practices they measure failure rather than improvement the number of injuries may be too small to be statistically significant they can reflect random fluctuations rather than a real trend a manual handling program will make staff more aware of the importance of back care and they may be more likely to report back pain. This is a good early warning to help identify problems that could be fixed but it can make it look like more injuries have occurred.


Catalogue No. 1306 Ordering Hotline 1300 799 003 WorkCover NSW 92-100 Donnison Street Gosford NSW 2250 Locked Bag 2906 Lisarow NSW 2252 WorkCover Assistance Service 13 10 50 Website
ISBN 1 920730 93 1 Copyright WorkCover NSW 2003.