Manual handling

Most jobs in the University involve carrying out some sort of manual task. Manual handling involves using your body to exert force to handle, support, manoeuvre or restrain any object. This includes not only lifting and carrying but also repetitive tasks or tasks that involve lowering, pushing or pulling.

Incorrect or poor manual handling may lead to the development of a musculoskeletal disorder or injury, the most common form of injury across Australia. The good news is; manual handling injuries are preventable.

There are many ways to control the risks associated with manual handling, including:

  • Automating the manual task (such as using remote controls)
  • Education on the correct lifting, pushing and pulling technique
  • Having goods delivered directly to the point of use to eliminate multiple handling
  • Replacing heavy items with those that are lighter, smaller and/or easier to handle
  • Replacing hand tools with power tools to reduce the level of force required to do the task
  • Isolating vibrating machinery from the user, for example, by providing fully independent seating on mobile plant
  • Using mechanical lifting aids
  • Working with a partner – two man lift, push or pull
  • Providing workstations that are height adjustable
  • Rotating workers between different tasks
  • Alternating tasks
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Wearing comfortable shoes and clothing
  • Wearing heat or shock resistant glove

Lifting, Pushing and Pulling

The correct manual handling technique is important in helping to prevent an injury. The ideal zone for lifting items is between shoulder and mid-thigh height. Frequently moved items should be stored in this range to reduce manual handling risks.

Lifting Safely

  • Plan ahead – know where you are moving the item and ensure you have a clear path to this spot. Do not be afraid to ask for help if the item is too heavy, large or shaped awkwardly.
  • Preparing– position your feet (shoulder width apart) close to the item. Bend your hips and knees in a squatting movement. Grip the item with your palms and activate your core muscles.
  • The lift – Use a smooth action to straighten your legs, generating force by pushing through your heels. Always keep your eyes and feet pointing in the same direction as you move the item.
  • Lowering – Get as close as possible to where the load will be placed and slowly lower it into place using the about steps in reverse.

Pushing and Pulling Safely

  • Push where possible – larger muscles are used in a pushing action compared to a pulling action.
  • Always ensure your elbows are kept close to your body when pushing or pulling. This means your elbows should be in a bent position. This will allow you to activate your arm muscles while completing the task.
  • Work in straight lines – eyes and feet should always be pointing in the same direction.
  • Ensure the core muscles are activated to protect the lower back.

To arrange for a manual handling risk assessment please contact the WHS unit. You may arrange for an ergonomic risk assessment for workstation related risks.

The Code of Practice - Hazardous manual tasks is a valuable source of information on manual handling.