Weight limits - what are the legal limits for lifting?

The short answer to this is "There aren't any" - Part 3.1 (Hazardous Manual Handling) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2017) does not have either weight or maximum force limits. But this does not mean that workers can be directed to lift heavy weights.

The Regulations require the employer to identify any task which involves hazardous manual handling, and then take actions to either eliminate or reduce the hazard and/or the associated risks.

The definition of 'hazardous manual handling' in the Regulations is as follows:

  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.

Basically, this means that any weight or force may be a risk to a worker, depending on factors such as posture, frequency, duration, actions and movements, and so on.

Obviously, the greater the force exerted, the greater the risk and workers and OHS Reps should raise this as an issue.

For more information, contact your union.

See also:

Last updated July 2017


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