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Every Body Can Suffer from Manual Task Injuries

Weekly WHS Article 22nd June 2022

Manual tasks may contain risks that:

  • cause “sudden damage” to a person’s musculoskeletal system, or

  • create injuries after a period of “gradual wear and tear”.

Most people do not play high impact, “sudden damage”, sports. But many people do manual tasks at work, at home, or at play, that contain risks that could cause “sudden damage” or create “gradual wear and tear” injuries over a period of time.

These injuries tend to become evident in their later working life and affect worker’s ability to function at work and may affect your workers compensation costs now.

The injury that reveals itself at your workplace today may have been contributed to by prior “sudden damage” or the “gradual wear and tear” of doing hazardous manual tasks during out of work hours or in their previous employment.

How do Manual Task Injuries Occur?

The Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice tells us at page 5, that these injuries can occur in two ways:

“gradual wear and tear to joints, ligaments, muscles and inter-vertebral discs caused by repeated or continuous use of the same body parts, including static body positions, or

sudden damage caused by strenuous activity, or unexpected movements such as when loads being handled move or change position suddenly.

Injuries can also occur due to a combination of the above mechanisms.”

What Type of Injuries do Workers Experience?

The type of injuries may include;

“sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments and tendons

back injuries, including damage to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal discs, nerves, joints and bones

joint and bone injuries or degeneration, including injuries to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, ankle, hands and feet

nerve injuries or compression, for example carpal tunnel syndrome

muscular and vascular disorders as a result of hand–arm vibration

soft tissue injuries including hernias, and

chronic pain.

These injuries are known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). These are the most common workplace injuries across Australia.”

What Manual Tasks Contain Risks?

As explained in the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice at page 5:

“A hazardous manual task is a task requiring a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing involving one or more of the following:

repetitive or sustained force

high or sudden force

repetitive movement

sustained or awkward posture, or

exposure to vibration.

These hazards directly stress the body and can lead to an injury.”

Education for Work and Home Manual Tasks

Whatever education you deliver to workers about manual tasks it should also be aimed at motivating workers to eliminate or control the risks of hazardous manual tasks at work and out-of-work.

In order to enhance the understanding of those being trained on manual task risks we recommend that your information and instruction includes the basics of the musculoskeletal system.

The two diagrams below are a part of the course materials in Courtenell’s 2 - hour onsite course, Manual Handling: Hazardous Manual Tasks Course.


Quotations from the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice used in this article are part of SafeWork NSW’s copyright work that is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Australia License. To view a copy of this licence, visit You are free to copy, communicate and adapt the work for non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to SafeWork NSW and abide by the other licence terms.


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