For many businesses, manual tasks are an important part of getting the job done. But even the simplest task can pose a risk unless you take a few steps to keep your workers safe.

A manual task involves using your body to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing. Most jobs involve carrying out some type of manual tasks, but not all of these are hazardous.

These tasks become hazardous when one or more of the following risk factors are present:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • vibration.

Injuries can occur from a number of different tasks – such as sitting for too long, doing the same task again and again, over-reaching and handling heavy items.

Preventing injuries from everyday tasks like these can seem near impossible and you may feel like you’ve tried everything, but by taking just five simple steps you’ll see the number of sprains and strains start to shrink.

1. Find the risk factors
Identify the things that cause the injuries. Common culprits include repetitive, sustained or sudden force, repetitive movement, awkward posture, exposure to vibration and performing manual tasks for a long duration.

2. Get your workers involved
Workers who perform the manual tasks can often give you the best idea of potential hazards. Ask them questions like “what makes you sore at work?” and “which jobs do you avoid doing?”

3. Don’t rely on safe lifting training
While your workers should definitely be trained to lift safely, on its own it’s not enough. Change the risk factors to eliminate the hazards.

4. Use higher level controls
This means you don’t have to rely solely on people to do the right thing – they fix the problem at the source.

Where possible, introduce controls that eliminate the risk altogether. If elimination isn’t possible then design out the risk, such as using an engineering solution. Finally, use substitution so that safer methods, tools or equipment are used.

5. Use a simple risk management approach
Identify, assess, control and review the risks. It’s as simple as that.

It’s all a lot to take in, so we’ve developed a short video to explain these steps and provide some examples of what you can do.

Visit the SafeWork NSW website for more manual handling resources, and be sure to check out our series of free manual handling workshops.

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Manual handling, Workplace safety

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