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How to Handle Hazardous Manual Tasks in Your Workplace

Based on the most recent workers compensation figures from SIRA NSW, manual handling is still the most common cause of workplace injury in NSW.

What can be done about that?

The first step is to identify any hazardous manual tasks in your workplace and then assess and eliminate or control any risks in those tasks.

How Would You Identify a Hazardous Manual Tasks in Your Workplace?

On page 5 of the SafeWork NSW Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice it explains that;

“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”.

How to Assess and Eliminate or Control the Risks

The SafeWork NSW Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice explains in detail how to assess and eliminate or control the risks of a hazardous manual task so far as is reasonably practicable.

If necessary, administrative control measures such as information, training, instruction and supervision can be used if higher levels of control in the hierarchy of control measures (see WHS Regulation 35-36) have not fully covered the risk of injury.

The Legal Requirements to Inform, Train, Instruct, or Supervise

The WHS Act section 19 (3)(f) requires that the PCBU provide “any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising” from carrying out work in the PCBU’s workplace.

WHS Regulation 39 (2) and (3) puts more detail into the above requirement by stating that the PCBU “must ensure that information, training and instruction provided to a worker is suitable and adequate having regard to:

  • the nature of the work carried out by the worker, and

  • the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time the information, training or instruction is provided, and

  • the control measures implemented,” and also

  • “that the information, training and instruction must be provided, so far as is reasonably practicable in a way that is readily understandable by any person to whom it is provided.”

Training Should be Provided

On pages 47- 48 the SafeWork NSW Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice recommends that;

“Training in the type of control measures implemented should be provided during induction into a new job and as part of an ongoing manual task risk control program.

Training should be provided to:

  • workers required to carry out, supervise or manage hazardous manual tasks

  • in-house designers, engineers and officers responsible for the selection and maintenance of plant and/or the design and organisation of the job/task, and

  • any health and safety representatives.”

Training Should Include

“The training should include information on:

  • manual task risk management, including the hazards associated with hazardous manual tasks

  • specific manual task risks and the measures in place to control them

  • how to perform manual tasks safely, including the use of mechanical aids, tools, equipment and safe work procedures, and

  • how to report a problem or maintenance issue.”

Training Should be Reviewed

“You should review your training program regularly and also when there is change to work processes or systems, plant or equipment, implementation of new control measures, relevant legislation or other issues affecting the way the task is performed.”

Records of Induction and Training Should be Kept

“You should keep records of induction and training given to your workers. The records can include information such as the date of the session, the topics dealt with, the name and signature of the trainer and each of the workers who attended the session.”

21st September 2020

How to Handle Hazardous Manual Tasks in
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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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