Hazardous manual tasks

Incorrect or poor manual handling or ergonomic set up could cause a musculoskeletal disorder or injury. These are the most common workplace injuries in Australia. A manual task becomes hazardous when it involves one or more of the following:

Poor posture

- sustained
- awkward

Application of force

- repetitive
- sustained
- sudden
- high

Exposure to vibration

- prolonged power tool use
- operating mobile equipment


- repetitive

  • Manual handling

    Most jobs in the University involve some sort of manual task.

    Manual handling means using your body to exert force on objects (including people or animals). Manual tasks include:

    • pushing
    • pulling
    • lifting
    • carrying
    • moving
    • holding
    • lowering
    • restraining
    • sustained postures
    • repetitive actions (e.g. typing)

    Controlling the risk

    You can control the risks associated with manual handling by:

    • automating the manual task (such as using remote controls)
    • teaching staff the correct lifting, pushing and pulling techniques
    • having goods delivered to the point of use to reduce or remove handling
    • replacing heavy items with items that are lighter, smaller and/or easier to handle
    • replacing hand tools with power tools to reduce the amount of force needed
    • isolating machinery vibration from the user (such as fully independent seating on mobile plant)
    • using mechanical lifting aids
    • working with a partner – two man lift, push or pull
    • providing workstations that are height adjustable
    • rotating workers between different tasks
    • alternating tasks
    • taking regular breaks
    • wearing comfortable shoes and clothes
    • wearing heat or shock resistant gloves.

    Lifting, pushing and pulling

    It's important to use the correct manual handling technique to help prevent an injury. The ideal zone for lifting items is between shoulder and mid-thigh height. If you need to move certain items often, store them in a position within this range to reduce manual handling risks.

    Safe lifting

    • Plan ahead –know where you are moving the item and make sure you have a clear path to this spot. Don't be afraid to ask for help if the item is too heavy, large or awkward.
    • Prepare – position your feet (shoulder width apart) close to the item. Bend your hips and knees in a squatting movement. Grip the item with your palms and activate your core muscles.
    • Lift – straighten your legs with a smooth action. Generate force by pushing through your heels. Always keep your eyes and feet pointing in the same direction as you move the item.
    • Lower – get as close as possible to where the load will be placed. Slowly lower it into place using the above steps in reverse.

    Safe pushing and pulling

    • Push where possible – you will use larger muscles than when pulling.
    • Always keep your elbows close to your body when pushing or pulling. This means your elbows should be in a bent position. This allows you to activate your arm muscles while completing the task.
    • Work in straight lines – eyes and feet should always be pointing in the same direction.
    • Use your core muscles to protect your lower back.

    For more information, see the Lifting, Pushing and Pulling Safely fact sheet.

  • Workstation ergonomics

    Ergonomics looks at the relationship between you and your workplace tasks. Ergonomics can apply to three levels of activity:

    • workstation design
    • workplace design
    • job design.

    Ergonomic workstation assessments reduce the risk of injury. They look at the design of your workstation, workplace and job.

    Ergonomics and workstation assessments

    Your workstation should be set up in a way that is comfortable and safe for you. You should adjust your equipment to suit your needs.

    Ergonomics considers factors such as:

    • the physical and psychological demands of your job
    • the mechanical equipment you use to perform your job
    • the work space you work in.

    Office workstations

    You can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal overload by:

    • setting up your workstation correctly
    • maintaining a neutral posture
    • alternating positions periodically.

    Correct posture will distribute an even workload on your body and reduce fatigue. Adjust your furniture and equipment to improve your posture and body alignment.

    You can use the workstation set up guide to make adjustments to your workstation.

    Rest breaks

    Regular, short rest breaks are important. They help keep you comfortable and safe when using computers. You can:

    • install rest break reminder software
    • vary tasks
    • take regular short breaks away from the computer
    • perform gentle stretches and eye exercises (at least every half hour) to help with circulation, flexibility and joint mobility.

    Workstation assessments

    A workstation assessment can help you identify and fix potential ergonomic problems at your workstation. You should consider a workstation assessment if you:

    • are experiencing pain and/or discomfort throughout the day
    • are feeling more fatigued than usual
    • have recently experienced an injury
    • have long-term chronic injury or illness.

    Types of workstation assessments

    Self-assessment checklist
    WHS unit assessments

    Before you request a WHS unit assessment, you must have:

    • completed a self assessment
    • allow time for your body to recover from any ergonomic problems.

    If you keep having ergonomic problems, please contact the Health and Safety Unit. This service is free, but is subject to staff availability.

    External provider assessments

    You should consider using an external provider if you have:

    • an injury
    • a medical condition relevant to ergonomic needs
    • significant ergonomic related symptoms.

    The changes you make must be in line with your treating health practitioner’s recommendations. You must provide an accurate, written diagnosis and treatment plan from your doctor.

    The external providers will send you and your supervisor a report with recommendations.

    See the list of Charles Sturt approved external ergonomic assessment providers.

    External assessment and new equipment costs

    Your business unit must cover external assessment or new equipment costs. It's important that you discuss this with your supervisor before proceeding.

    You must complete an incident report if your condition is caused or aggravated by work.

    Find out more about funding for workers with disabilities or special needs .

    Ergonomic equipment

    There is a wide variety of ergonomic equipment on the market. For further information, please contact the Health and Safety Unit at Safety@csu.edu.au

More information

Hazardous Manual Task Procedure

This procedure outlines how staff should manage manual tasks at Charles Sturt.

Manual task risk assessment form

Use this form to assess the risk involved with a manual task.