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Creating Healthier Workplaces > Health and Safety > Hazards and Risks >

Manual tasks and ergonomics

Manual tasks includes a range of activities in the school and work environment including moving furniture, entering data into a computer, carrying a bag full of sporting equipment, using a hedge trimmer and transferring a student from a wheelchair onto a toilet. These tasks involve the exertion of force to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, move, hold, slide or transfer a person or object.

Manual tasks can contribute to a range of musculoskeletal disorders (injuries) including:

These types of injuries are often cumulative with damage occurring over a period of time before pain or injury is apparent.

Some work activities may present additional hazards that can also overload the body and lead to injury. These tasks are known as hazardous manual tasks and require specific management strategies. A hazardous manual task involves one or more of the following factors:

Often, the risk of acquiring a hazardous manual task injury is increased by stress. In order to reduce the risk of injury to staff and students, it is necessary to identify those tasks that are classed as hazardous and ensure they are adequately managed.

Many steps can be immediately implemented to minimise the risk of injuries associated with any manual task, whether they are classed as hazardous or not. Planning the task, using equipment to reduce the effort required and asking for help are simple ways to reduce the risks.

It is also useful to consult with workers who are actually undertaking the tasks, as they:

Encourage staff to report problems with manual tasks and signs of discomfort immediately so that risks can be managed before an injury occurs.

Risk management resources specific to manual tasks are available on this page.

Departmental procedures and guidelines


Hazardous manual task resources

This risk assessment template is designed to assist workplaces to identify and manage hazardous manual tasks.

Hazardous Manual Tasks (HMT) Safety Operating Procedures

The following generic SOPs provide information on how to address risks related to identified hazardous manual tasks in department work environments. Ensure you modify the content to reflect any local circumstances related to your task and equipment before you implement them.


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This page was last reviewed on 30 May 2016

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