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Manual handling risk assessment

We all know we need to be assessing and managing risk in the workplace. The law is extremely clear that risk assessment is one of the key responsibilities of business owners and managers.

Using the Code of Practice for manual handling is one of the most effective methods of assessing and analysis of risks.

We recommend using the National Code of Practice for Manual Handling 1990 as a guide for what needs to be considered. You should also refer to the relevant Code for your state. You can find more information here and here.

The Codes give general principles for the assessment and control of manual handling risks through:
– consultation;
design;
– risk identification;
– assessment and control;
– review and evaluation;
– record-keeping.

Assessment of the duties employees (and others) perform is often difficult. We suggest the approach of breaking up these duties into a list of simple tasks that each duty requires. Each individual task can then be assessed according to the Codes.

The Codes give directions as well as examples for assessing tasks. The Risk Assessment Worksheet contained in the Victorian Code of Practice: Manual Handling is particularly useful and includes;

Examples of high force tasks which should be considered:

  • lifting, lowering or carrying heavy loads;
  • applying uneven, fast or jerky forces during lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling;
  • applying sudden or unexpected forces (e.g. when handling a person or animal);
  • pushing or pulling objects that are hard to move or to stop (e.g. a trolley);
  • using a finger-grip, a pinch-grip or an open-handed grip to handle a heavy or large load;
  • exerting force at the limit of the grip span;
  • needing to use two hands to operate a tool designed for one hand;
  • throwing or catching;
  • hitting or kicking;
  • holding, supporting or restraining a person, animal or heavy object;
  • jumping while holding a load;
  • exerting force with the non-preferred hand;
  • two or more people need to be assigned to handle a heavy or bulky load;
  • exerting high force while in an awkward posture

Or indications that the tasks may include high force if that employees report:

  • pain or significant discomfort during or after the task;
  • the task can only be done for short periods;
  • stronger employees are assigned to do the task;
  • that the task should be done by more than one person, or seek help to do the task;
  • that the task is physically very strenuous or difficult to do.

The Code also defines tasks that may be repetitive (if conducted frequently – typically more than twice per minute), or if the tasks requires sustained postures (tasks down for more than thirty seconds at a time.

The duration of the tasks is also considered to be too long if these tasks is performed for greater than thirty minutes at a time, or for more than two hours over an entire shift.

Finally, there is consideration of these tasks over the entire length of a person’s employment. Here the risk assessment will look for signs of fatigue, complaints which may be occurring, workers not wanting to perform these tasks and of course any previous injuries or incidents.

From the above assessment, we can remove any risks which can be removed, minimise the risks which cannot (whether through exposure, decreasing force etc) and thus specify the best ways of performing given duties (broken up into safe and reliable tasks).

All of the risk assessments considered above require detailed record keeping of the duties, the way each task is to be performed, and any complaints, all overlaid with supervision to ensure the tasks are being performed in a safe and sustainable manner.

If you would like expert help with assessing, eliminating and reducing the risks in your workplace, contact us today on 03 9376 1844 for an obligation-free discussion.

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