Manual Tasks Associated with Relocation or Refurbishment of Workplaces - Guidelines

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1. Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this guideline is to offer advice regarding the management of musculoskeletal risks associated with manual handling when moving, storing, or setting up furniture or equipment. 

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Musculoskeletal disorder - Sprain or strain to soft tissues of the body, including muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and intervertebral discs. Examples: back pain, sciatica, neck strain.

Manual task - A task that requires a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing.

Hazardous manual task - A manual task requiring repetitive or sustained force, high or sudden force, repetitive movement, sustained or awkward posture or exposure to vibration.

3. Guidelines Scope/Coverage

This guideline applies to all University staff who may be required to perform manual handling tasks as part of a workplace relocation or refurbishment.

4. Guidelines Statement

These guidelines have been developed with reference to the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice 2011, and outline effective ways to identify and manage manual tasks risks associated with relocation of furniture and refurbishment of workplaces.

5. Risk Management

The risk of sustaining musculoskeletal disorders to the back, upper and lower limbs when performing manual tasks is dependent on a number of factors:

  • size and weight of the object
  • the heights at which the lift is carried out
  • the distance of the object from the person
  • the ease with which the object can be grasped
  • the stability of the object
  • the duration of handling
  • the frequency of handling 
  • the availability of appropriate mechanical assistance
  • the fitness and skill of those carrying out the manual handling tasks

A risk management plan should be developed for manual tasks in accordance with the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice (2011). The information in this guideline should be used to assist in the development of local risk management plans and for the planning of safe manual tasks.

6. Relocation or Refurbishment of Offices

6.1 Allocation of tasks based on risk rating

High risk tasks should be performed by external contractors who are experienced and equipped to safely perform the tasks.

Moderate risk tasks can be performed by both external contractors and University staff, and low risk tasks can be performed by University staff. Examples of high, moderate and low risk relocation tasks are listed in the table below.

Risk rating Example of activity Task should be performed by

High risk

  • Relocation of several offices
  • Relocation of boardroom tables, filing cabinets, cupboards, large laboratory equipment
  • May require use of stairs

External contractors

Moderate risk

  • Packing boxes associated with relocation of entire computer or scientific laboratory
  • Stacking boxes ready for pick up

External contractors

University staff

Low risk

  • Packing books and personal items
  • Emptying contents of filing cabinets and bookshelves into boxes
  • Moving chairs and furniture with wheels across flat surfaces

University staff

6.2 Managing risk of musculoskeletal injuries associated with relocation or refurbishment of workplaces

Additional risk control measures should be put in place regardless of whether the task is performed by University staff or external contractors. Below are some examples of risk control measures that should be considered:

  • packing should be performed on benches or desks to facilitate upright postures
  • reducing the size and weight of boxes being packed
  • using mechanical assistance, such as trolleys with height adjustable beds and large pneumatic wheels for boxes, and 2-wheeled trolleys for the movement of filing cabinets
  • emptying book shelves and filing cabinets before moving them
  • scheduling packing and movement of furniture and equipment so that rest breaks or task variation is provided
  • training staff in manual tasks risk assessment and control

University staff with pre-existing musculoskeletal disorders or who have a sedentary lifestyle are most at risk of injury when manually handling furniture or equipment. In such cases, the use of an external contractor and mechanical assistance to assist in packing and moving is vital.

7. Delivery and Assembly of New Furniture

Furniture suppliers are responsible for delivering and assembling new furniture. Removalists are usually responsible for dismantling, removing or relocating furniture. All furniture to be moved or removed is to be emptied prior to removal or relocation.

To organise the relocation of an office or rearrangement of furniture, University managers should contact a removalist who is on the Property and Facilities Division Registered Contractors List and who is appropriately inducted.

8. Room Set-ups for Exams, Lecture Theatres and Tutorial Rooms

The Examinations Section determines the most appropriate furniture arrangements for examinations. Set-up of furniture and equipment is coordinated through the Campus Services Section of Property and Facilities Division.

The furniture placement and layout of centrally-controlled teaching spaces is determined by Teaching Space Management and coordinated through the Campus Services Section of Property and Facilities Division. If furniture is not appropriately set-up, Teaching Space Management should liaise with Cleaning Services and PF Assist.

School teaching spaces are controlled locally by the school, faculty, or institute. These units determine the most appropriate arrangement of furniture. If furniture needs to be moved or rearranged, the unit manager should contact a removalist who is on the Property and Facilities Division Registered Contractors List and who is appropriately inducted.

9. Contact for Additional Information

Ergonomics and Rehabilitation Officer
UQ OHS Division

Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael
Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael