3.1 Hazardous 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.

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2017 changes to Hazardous Manual Handling Regulations

The major changes to this chapter in the 2017 regulations are:

  • the title has been amended to Hazardous Manual Handling;
  • the definition has been redrafted;
  • changes in what is required for hazard identification and review of controls

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

  1. hazardous manual handling means work requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain -
    1. a thing if the work involves one or more of the following -
      1. repetitive or sustained application of force;
      2. sustained awkward posture;
      3. repetitive movement;
      4. application of high force 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. live persons or animals;
    3. unstable or unbalanced loads or loads which are difficult to grasp or hold.
  2. musculoskeletal disorder means an injury, illness or disease that arises in whole or in part from hazardous manual handling, whether occurring suddenly or over a prolonged period of time, but does not include an injury caused by crushing, entrapment or cutting resulting primarily from the mechanical operation of plant.

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26 Hazard Identification

The employer must identify so far as is reasonably practicable any current (or future) hazardous manual handling undertaken by an employee.

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27 Control of risk

  1. The employer must eliminate any risk of a musculoskeletal disorder associated with hazardous manual handling 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; or
      3. the systems of work which involve hazardous manual handling;or
    2. changing the things used in the hazardous manual handling; or
    3. using mechanical aids; or
    4. any combining any of the risk control measures referred to in 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 the employer has complied with sub-regulations (1) & (2), and risk remains, the employer must reduce that risk, so far as is reasonably practicable by using information, instruction or training.
  4. The employer may ONLY rely solely or primarily on information, training or supervision IF none of the measure in subregulation (2) are reasonably practicable

    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 (1) &  (2) above.  
  5. Without limiting (1) - (4) when determining any control measures, the employer must take into account the following:
    1. postures;
    2. movements;
    3. forces;
    4. the duration and frequency of the hazardous manual handling; and
    5. environmental conditions, including heat, cold and vibration, that act directly on the person carrying out the hazardous manual handling.

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 21)

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28 Review of risk control measures

  1. An employer must review and, if necessary, revise any measures used to control the risks under reg 27 -
    1. before any alteration is made to any thing, process or system of work involving hazardous manual handling, including a change in the place where work is undertaken; or
    2. if new or additional information about hazardous manual handling becomes available; or
    3. if an occurrence of a musculoskeletal disorder at a workplace is reported by or on behalf of an employee; or
    4. after any incident occurs to which Part 5 of the Act applies that involves hazardous manual handling; or
    5. if, for any other reason, the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
    6. after receiving a request from a health and safety rep.
  2. A rep can make a request under (1)(f) if he/she believes on reasonable grounds that -
    1. any of the circumstances referred to in (1)(a) to (1)(e) 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)(e) in conducting a review or revising the risk control measures.

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'How to lift training' does not reduce risk

In November 2022 the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities Musculoskeletal Disorders National Working Group released a position paper reminding employers they must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consider and implement higher order risk control measures to meet their duties under the various state Health and Safety Acts. 

WorkSafe, as a member of the working group has released new information consistent with the position paper. 

Learn more here 



See Also:

Last amended: June 2023

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