Manual Handling

is the Most Common Cause of Workplace Injuries

Manual handling is the cause of 26% of workplace injuries (NSW Workers Compensation Statistical Bulletin 2016-17). It is still the most common cause of injury in NSW workplaces. Managers, Supervisors, HSRs, and Health & Safety Committee members could help minimise manual handling injuries by contributing to the actions listed below to identify any hazardous manual tasks in your workplace. When a hazardous manual task is identified you need to eliminate the risk of injury or minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

Look for hazardous manual tasks in your workplace
Observe how people do their manual tasks - focus on their postures and movements. A manual task is hazardous if it involves any of the following characteristics (see examples in pages 12-18 of the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice):

  • repetitive or sustained force

  • high or sudden force

  • repetitive movement

  • sustained and/or awkward posture

  • exposure to vibration.


Consult your workers
Workers who perform manual tasks can provide valuable information about any discomfort, muscular aches and pains that can signal potential hazards. For example, you could ask workers to identify tasks that:

  • are difficult to do (or appear harder than they should be)

  • are very tiring (muscle fatigue reduces work capacity)

  • are awkward or dangerous (for example, difficulty controlling loads)

  • cause discomfort.


Review available information
Review records of workplace injuries and incidents, inspection reports and any workers compensation claims made for manual handling injuries. Also gather information and advice about hazardous manual tasks and risks relevant to your industry and work activities.

Look for trends
You may be able to identify trends or common problems in your workplace from the information you collect. Perhaps workers in a particular location are exposed to more hazardous manual tasks than in other areas and this could indicate a problem with the design and layout of that work area or the way work is carried out there. The recommended actions above are drawn from pages 11-12 of the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice –Safe Work Australia. See those pages for more detail.


This copyrighted SafeWork NSW Code is based on a national model code of practice developed by Safe Work Australia and is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial 3.0 Australia licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit; creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/au/

This publication provides general information about WHS.

It is not legal opinion and does not represent a comprehensive

statement of the law to be applied to a particular problem

Issue 143

Nov - Dec 2019

Published Bi-monthly

Brought to you by Courtenell Pty Ltd, Work Health & Safety Training Specialists.
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