3.1 Manual Handling

Injuries due to Manual Handling (musculoskeletal injuries) are still the most common compensable injuries in Victoria. There have been regulations for Manual Handling since 1988, though many workplaces have still done very little to comply.

The Manual Handling is covered under Part Part 3.1 of Chapter 3 - Physical Hazards of the Regulations. As in all the regulations, the employer has a duty to identify the hazard and then take measures to control the risk and then review these.

The definitions relevant to manual handling - now in Part 1.1 of the Regulations - are:

  1. manual handling means any activity requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any object.
  2. hazardous manual handling is defined as:
    1. manual handling having any of the following characteristics--
      1. repetitive or sustained application of force;
      2. repetitive or sustained awkward posture;
      3. repetitive or sustained movement;
      4. application of high force being an activity involving a single or repetitive use of force that it would be reasonable to expect that a person in the workforce may have difficulty undertaking;
      5. exposure to sustained vibration;
    2. manual handling of live persons or animals;
    3. manual handling of unstable or unbalanced loads or loads which are difficult to grasp or hold.
  3. musculoskeletal disorder means an injury, illness or disease that arises in whole or in part from manual handling in the workplace, whether occurring suddenly or over a prolonged period of time, but does not include an injury, illness or disease which is caused by crushing, entrapment or cut resulting primarily from the mechanical operation of plant.
  4. object includes an inanimate or animate object, plant and any substance or material contained by an object.

3.1.1 Hazard Identification

The employer must identify any current (or future) task to be undertaken by employees involving hazardous manual handling.

The employer may do this identification for a class of tasks if all the tasks are similar, and no-one is subject to a greater risk because the identification was done of a class of, rather than an individual, tasks. (OHS reps: beware of generic identifications! Contact your union for advice.)

3.1.2 Control of risk

  1. The employer must eliminate the risk of a musculoskeletal disorder associated with a hazardous manual handling task so far as is reasonably practicable; or
  2. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then reduce it so far as is reasonably practicable by -
    1. altering--
      1. the workplace layout, or
      2. the workplace environment, including heat, cold and vibration, where the task involving manual handling is carried out; or
      3. the systems of work used to undertake the task;or
    2. changing the objects used in the task; or
    3. using mechanical aids; or
    4. any combination or paragraphs (a) to (c).

      This sub-regulation also has a Note regarding the duties of designers of plant, buildings or structures (or parts of) and manufacturers, importers or suppliers of plant or substances (under S 27 - 30 of the Act) to ensure its safety and absence of risk to health - including the risk of musculoskeletal disorder.

  3. If it is not reasonably practicable to reduce the risk in accordance with sub-regulation (2), the employer may control that risk by the use of information, instruction or training.

    This means the employer must not use information (including 'safe lifting' posters), instruction or training of workers in manual handling techniques as the sole or primary means of controlling risks UNLESS it is not 'reasonably practicable' to eliminating/controlling the risk using any of the ways described in (2) above. 
  4. In determining any control measures, the employer must address the following:
    1. postures; and
    2. movements; and
    3. forces;
    4. the duration and frequency of the task; and
    5. environmental conditions, including heat, cold and vibration, that act directly on the person carrying out the task.

There is another important Note in this sub-regulation, referring to the duties of the employer under s 35 & 36 to consult with employees, involving OHS reps (as per regulation 2.1.5)

3.1.3 Review of risk control measures

  1. An employer must ensure that any measures used to control the risks are reviewed and, if necessary, revised -
    1. before any alteration is made to objects used in a workplace or to systems of work which include a task involving manual handling, including a change in the place where that task is carried out; or
    2. before an object is used for another purpose than for which it was designed if that other purpose may result in the person carrying out hazardous manual handling; or
    3. if new or additional information about hazardous manual handling being associated with a task becomes available to the employer; or
    4. if an occurrence of a musculoskeletal disorder in a workplace is reported by or on behalf of an employee; or
    5. after any incident occurs to which Part 5 of the Act applies that involves hazardous manual handling; or
    6. if, for any othe reason, the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
    7. after receiving a request from a health and safety rep.
  2. A rep can make a request under (1)(g) if he/she believes on reasonable grounds that -
    1. any of the circumstances referred to in (1)(a) to (1)(f) exists; or
    2. the employer has failed -
      1. properly review the risk control measures; or
      2. to take account of any of the circumstances referred to in (1)(a) to (1)(f) in conducting a review or revising the risk control measures.

See Also:

Last amended June 2015

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