Guidance about hazardous manual tasks

What is a manual task?

A manual task is any activity that requires a person to use their physical body (musculoskeletal system) to perform work. This includes work that involves the use of force for lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying, moving, holding or restraining anything. It also includes work that involves repetitive actions, sustained postures and exposure to vibration.

Further information: The term ‘manual task’ replaces the term ‘manual handling’ in line with the Australian Safety and Compensation Council National Standard for Manual Tasks (2007) and National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders from Performing Manual Tasks at Work (2007).

What makes a manual task hazardous?

Almost every activity involves some form of manual task. To distinguish between those tasks that are potentially a problem and those that are not, the term ‘hazardous manual task’ is used. A manual task becomes a hazardous manual task when it has characteristics that increase the risk of injury, such as:

  • repetitive or sustained
    • application of force
    • awkward postures
    • movements
  • application of high force
  • exposure to sustained vibration
  • handling of
    • person or animal
    • unstable or unbalanced loads that are difficult to grasp or hold.

A variety of injuries and conditions can result. They are collectively referred to as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and include injuries to soft tissue, bone and nerves; muscular and vascular disorders; and soft tissue hernias.

These injuries have a significant impact for workers and industry as a whole through compensation claim costs, lost productivity, staff replacement and training costs, loss of expertise and administrative overheads. The costs of manual task injuries to the injured worker include pain and suffering, loss of income, and possible long-term disability.

Manual handling review of WA mining industry project: scoping study - 819 Kb

This is a scoping study which outlines the recommendations on directions, strategies and activities to reduce manual task injuries based on the information gathered.

Managing the risks

Approach

The most effective way to tackle hazards is to adopt a risk management approach, and this also applies to hazardous manual tasks. The risk management approach can address both the safety (i.e. acute injuries) and health (i.e. cumulative injuries) aspects of this hazard.

Further information: The most effective way to deal with a hazardous manual task is to determine what it is about the task that makes it hazardous then eliminate it if possible. If it cannot be eliminated, then apply the hierarchy of control to reduce the risks.

Each workplace is different and there will be variation in the most suitable approach to implementing and running a program to effectively manage the risks associated with manual tasks.

Experience shows that this is most effectively done in consultation with the people who do the work. All those affected should be consulted, which may mean maintenance staff as well as operators. A participative approach also engenders a sense of ownership of any changes — and should increase the likelihood of success.

Further information: Participative ergonomics is the internationally recommended approach to reducing the overall risk from hazardous manual tasks and preventing MSDs. Workers have an expert knowledge of the manual tasks they perform and are therefore in the best position to undertake the manual task risk management process of hazard identification, risk assessment, risk control and evaluation.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 5: Participative ergonomics - 145 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 5 outlines how involving workers to identify hazardous manual tasks can help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Training resources

The training package is available to provide mining workplaces with the information to run a workshop on how to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in mining workplaces.

The workshop will provide the knowledge and skills for mining workplace employees, as part of a manual tasks risk management team, to undertake the risk management process applied to manual tasks.

The workshop can be adapted to suit:

  • a workplace induction program or
  • manual tasks risk management training for managers.

 

Acknowledgement: This training package is based on WorkSafe’s publication Preventing manual handling injuries in the workplace.

Presenter’s guide - 1267 Kb

This booklet contains the presenter's guide for the workshop regarding the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in mining workplaces.

Principles of adult learning - 56 Kb

This booklet contains information of the principles of adult learning to help with running a workshop.

Tips for workshop presenters - 61 Kb

This booklet contains tips for workshop presenters when running a workshop.

Workshop Plan - 183 Kb

This booklet contains the workshop plan regarding the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in mining workplaces.

PowerPoint presentation - 8455 Kb

This powerpoint contains the workshop presentation slides regarding the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in mining workplaces.

Workshop resources - 130 Kb

This booklet contains workshop resources regarding the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in mining workplaces.

References and sources of further information - 1749 Kb

This booklet contains references and further information regarding the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in mining workplaces.

Information sheets

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 1: Terminology - 147 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 1 outlines how workers performing hazardous manual tasks have an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 2: Extent and cost of injuries - 207 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 2 outlines how industry stakeholders benefit from the implementation of strategies that reduce the extent and severity of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks in WA mining workplaces.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 3: How injuries can happen at work - 190 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 3 outlines how performing manual tasks at work can cause musculoskeletal disorders.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 4: Manual tasks and the risk management process - 167 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 4 outlines how the risk management process provides a framework which can help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 5: Participative ergonomics - 145 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 5 outlines how involving workers to identify hazardous manual tasks can help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 6: Whole-body vibration - 163 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 6 outlines how operators, drivers and passengers of machines can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 7: Hand-arm vibration - 149 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 7 outlines how workers using hand-held power tools can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 8: Machinery and vehicle cab design - 193 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 8 outlines how machinery and vehicle cab design is important in reducing the the overall risk of drivers and operators developing musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 9: Safe design - 174 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 9 outlines how safe design is important in reducing the the overall risk of musculoskeletal disorders from performing manual tasks at work.

Manual tasks in mining fact sheet No 10: Occupational safety and health legislation - 174 Kb

This manual tasks in mining factsheet number 10 outlines the occupational safety and health legislation for the WA mining industry and also the duties of the employers and employees.

Other guidance

Implementing effective programs to manage risks associated with manual tasks - guide - 5140 Kb

This is the guide to implementing effective programs to manage risks associated with manual tasks.

Manual tasks - assessing risks and making changes (2008) - 6983 Kb

This toolbox presentation looks at the impact of injuries from performing manual tasks at work and risk management process and its implementation.

Manual tasks - implementing an effective program to manage risks (2009) - 761 Kb

This toolbox presentation looks at implementing an effective programme to manage risks associated with manual tasks in mining workplaces.

Audit

Manual tasks – audit guide - 186 Kb

This audit guideline provides information on the manual tasks HIF audit.

Frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities - information sheet - 942 Kb

This information sheet outlines the frequently asked questions on self-auditing of mining activities.

Related information

Safe Work Australia has a National standard for manual tasks. This publication sets out the principles for the effective management of hazardous manual tasks to avert musculoskeletal disorders arising from manual tasks in the workplace.