Hazardous Manual Tasks

Safe Work Australia have recently released a new Code of Practice titled Hazardous Manual Tasks. http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/publications/pages/hazardous-manual-tasks-cop. This comprehensive code is a practical guide to help business owners and workers become aware of manual tasks which are potentially hazardous and how to assess, eliminate or minimize these risks. This code of practice will also guide designers, importers, suppliers and manufacturers of industrial equipment and also designers of workplace/spaces about their responsibilities concerning a safe workplace environment.

It will also help assess and control the risk of musculoskeletal disorders arising from hazardous manual tasks carried out in the workplace. This is an approved code of practice under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2011A00137 This has been developed by the Council of Australian Governments, Inter-Governmental Agreement fo Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety for adoption by the Commonwealth, State, and Territory governments.

Almost every job or work activity will involve some manual handling task or function. This could typically include data processing, order picking, unloading a truck or pushing a laden trolley. Compliance with the code is thus very important and codes of practice are admissible in court proceedings.

What is Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD)

The WHS Regulations https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2011L02664 give guidance regarding what exactly constitutes an MSD disorder. It means an injury or disease affecting the musculoskeletal system which is caused over time in the workplace or it may occur suddenly. MSD does not include workplace injuries such as bone fractures, dislocations or crushing injuries and cuts or wounds to body members.

MSDs include injuries and conditions such as;

  1. affected muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These typically involve strains and sprains
  2. vibration injuries causing vascular and muscle disorders
  3. a wide range of bone and joint problems including feet, knee, ankle, elbow, hip, and wrist injuries
  4. injuries to the back, this includes bones, nerves, muscles, joints, tendons and spinal discs
  5. carpal tunnel conditions including injuries or compression to nerves
  6. chronic pain symptoms
  7. soft tissue hernias

These injuries and conditions can be caused in the workplace through repeated and continuous manual handling tasks involving the same body parts or functions. They can also occur during strenuous work procedures or through sudden or unexpected forces or changes in work positions.

Definition of a Hazardous Manual Task

The WHS Regulations also describes this as a workplace task or operation that causes a person to carry, lift, push, pull, or restrain a thing involving one or more of the below-described activities;

  1. sudden or strong force
  2. repetitive movements
  3. continuous or awkward posture
  4. exposure to vibration
  5. continuous or repetitive force

Who is covered under the Code of Practice?

The WHS Regulations provide specific responsibilities for anyone conducting a business or undertaking. These responsibilities also include importers and suppliers, manufacturers and designers inasmuch as they should also ensure plant, equipment and structures supplied are without risks to the health and safety of workers or operators. (please go to chapter 6 of the code for further guidance on this)

The Code also requires company directors and officers to comply with the WHS Regulations They are responsible for ensuring the business activities, or undertaking does everything necessary to eliminate or minimize hazardous manual tasks.

What is required to control and manage risks associated with MSDs

A process is required under the Code to carefully manage and control the risk involved in manual handling tasks. This includes;

  1. identify manual handling tasks that are potentially hazardous
  2. look at the risks of MSDs associated with that hazardous task
  3. if it is not possible to eliminate the risk, implement suitable risk control measures
  4. regularly review the effectiveness of risk control measures and if necessary revise these

After potential risks have been identified in the workplace, it is necessary to establish the hierarchy of risk control. Obviously, the most effective solution is to eliminate completely the actual hazardous manual handling operation. If it is not reasonably possible to completely remove the hazard, you are required to minimize risk by;

  1. putting in place engineering controls
  2. removing the particular hazard from the person exposed to it
  3. substitute the hazardous activity with something that involves a lesser risk

If a risk still remains it must then be reduced as much as reasonably possible by putting in place administrative controls. Measures should result in at least reducing the frequency and scope of movements, the work situation, and the way the actual way the task is organized.

Materials Handling Equipment can help remove or reduce the requirement for persons to lift, carry or support products etc. A wide selection of manual handling equipment is available including;

  1. vacuum or other intelligent lifting and handling devices
  2. conveyors including powered and screw conveyors
  3. lifting hoists and gantries
  4. overhead cranes, jib cranes and mechanical manipulators
  5. trolleys, hand trucks, motorized pallet trucks and forklifts
  6. powered equipment including tow tugs and motorized pallet trucks
  7. scissor lift tables, turntables and dock levellers

It is critical when control measures are being introduced such as the provision of mechanical handling equipment, that adequate information and training for the workers is carried out. This is necessary to ensure new or additional risks are not created by the implementation of these measures.

The following infographic provides a clear graphical visualization of data relating to workplace injuries.

edited Hazards-of-Manual-Handling-940x6616

Source: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats%[email protected]/0/7EBF2FCCABAB02C3CA256AE2007DBCEF?Opendocument

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