Manual Handling Tasks Causing 1 in 3 Injuries to Australian Workers

One in three injuries to Australian workers are caused by manual handling tasks.

The use of trolleys and other wheeled equipment are widely used to shift and move both heavy and awkward loads in the workplace. This saves workers a lot of effort and avoids the manual lifting and carrying of heavy objects.

However there are a number of risks associated with pushing and pulling heavy loads. These include strain injuries to upper limbs, including wrists, arms, shoulders and the lower back. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics report on work related injuries (Jul 2013 – Jun 2014), of the 12.5 million persons in the workforce some 531,800 suffered a work related injury.

The industry groups which had the highest number of work related injuries or illnesses were the manufacturing sector with 20% of all injuries, 16% in the construction industry and 10% in transport and warehousing.

Of the total persons who had experienced a work related injury 34% (181,200) sustained their injury through lifting, pushing, pulling or bending.

These alarming statistics demonstrate how important it is to eliminate or reduce pushing and pulling risks and hazards. There are a number of factors that affect the push/pull effort when moving a cart, trolley or a pallet jack.

This can include site specific characteristics such as quality and finish on floors, slopes or ramps, aisle widths and distances to be travelled. Equipment characteristics are also important, this includes both handle height and orientation, castor/wheel type and configuration and the combined weight of the trolley and the load.

The effort or the force that is required to initially push or pull wheeled equipment is the greatest at the start. This is commonly called the ‘ starting force’ .It is important to understand the forces involved in manual handling tasks and powered equipment should be considered if the forces and frequency of movement is high.

Powered trolleys are now commonly used in many manual handling situations including hospitals, stores and warehouse applications. Powered pallet movers such as motorized or electric pallet trucks can significantly reduce the risk of strain related injuries. Powered solutions will also increase operator performance and general productivity.