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Resolving Hazardous Manual Tasks at Work and at Home

Weekly WHS Article 27th July 2023

Do workers in your workplace have these injuries?

  • “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.” Ref 1

These injuries are known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). “These are the most common workplace injuries across Australia.” Ref 1

Why do these MSD injuries happen?

The Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice tells us an MSD 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.” Ref 1

Five risk factors that can make a manual task hazardous.

The gradual wear and tear or sudden damage to a worker’s musculoskeletal system comes about because one or more hazards are a part of the manual task that the worker performs. As explained in the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice:

“A hazardous manual task is a task requiring a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or re- strain 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.”

Resolving hazardous manual tasks at work and at home.

1. Some of your workers may be doing hazardous manual tasks in their personal life, at home or in other out-of-work activities, that results in “gradual wear and tear” or “sudden damage” to their musculoskeletal system. That out-of-working-hours damage may lead to, or precipitate an injury and a workers compensation claim at work when the worker is engaged in a hazardous manual task at their workplace.

2. The reverse is also true. Workers may suffer a musculoskeletal injury while doing a hazardous manual task in their personal life because it was precipitated by the “gradual wear and tear” or “sudden damage” resulting from hazardous manual tasks they carry out at work.

A PCBU can address the above two situations by training Workers, Supervisors, and HSRs on the hazardous manual tasks in their workplace as covered in SafeWork NSW’s Hazardous Manual Task Training Fact Sheet Ref 2.

Courtenell would be very interested in working with clients to achieve the results that they need.


Ref 1: see page 5 Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice

Ref 2: see SafeWork NSW’s Hazardous Manual Task Training Fact Sheet

Note The quotations in this article are from SafeWork NSW’s Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice. Except for the NSW Government logo, this copyright work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Australia License. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Resolving Hazardous Manual Tasks at Work and at Home
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27th July 2023

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