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1. Purpose and Scope

These procedures outline how to manage the risk of musculoskeletal disorders associated with manual tasks as per legislative requirements. These procedures apply to all staff, students and visitors who may be required to perform manual tasks as part of their role at the University.

2. Process and Key Controls

The University is aware that musculoskeletal disorders can occur during hazardous manual tasks. Through risk assessment of manual tasks and effective control of risk factors, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders can be minimised.

The associated Manual Tasks Risk Management guidelines provide advice for management of specific manual tasks (i.e. hand tool use, events, storage, etc.) and guidance on selection and use of assistive equipment (i.e. trolleys).

The Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice 2011 provides risk management guidance and  risk identification checklists that may be used by staff and supervisors for the purpose of risk management. Other helpful resources for manual tasks risk management can be found at the Workplace Health & Safety Qld Manual Tasks webpage.

Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks (PErforM) is a risk management approach designed for manual tasks. WHSQ offers frequent in-person and online training in the PErforM tool use and more information can be found at the PErforM section of the WHSQ manual tasks webpage. Completed PErforM risk assessment forms can be uploaded to existing risk assessments within the UQ Safe Risk Management Database.

3. Key Requirements

3.1 Understanding musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders are defined as injury to or disorder of musculoskeletal system of the body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, intervertebral discs, nerves, blood vessels, joints and bones. Musculoskeletal disorders do not include crushing, fractures, dislocations, entrapment or laceration injuries.

Examples of musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • sprains and strains of muscles;

  • nerve injuries or compression (i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome);

  • muscular or vascular injuries disorders (i.e. hand arm vibration syndrome); and

  • bone and joint injuries or degeneration.

3.2 Manual tasks risk management

3.2.1 Identify hazardous manual tasks

3.2.2 Consult workers

Workers who perform manual tasks can help to inform what tasks are difficult, awkward or exhausting to perform or cause discomfort. These challenging tasks are usually in need of further risk management.

3.2.3 Review injury or incident records

Uncontrolled hazardous manual tasks can result in injury or near-miss incidents. Injury records can help to identify high risk tasks in need of risk assessment or additional risk controls.

3.2.4 Observe manual tasks

Observe workers performing manual tasks and assess if the task requires:

  • repetitive or sustained force;

  • high or sudden force;

  • repetitive movement;

  • sustained and/or awkward posture; or

  • exposure to vibration.

Tasks that require one or more of these characteristics can be classified as a hazardous manual task.

3.3 Risk assessment

Assessment of the risk factors for manual tasks must be undertaken in accordance with WHS Regulation section 60 and Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice 2011 as a means of preventing and reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

A manual tasks risk assessment must be conducted or reviewed when:

  • new equipment has been introduced or when new equipment needs to be selected;

  • tasks have been redesigned or new tasks are introduced; or

  • there are changes to work environment.

3.4 Identify and implement control measures

Once the risks have been assessed, identify what controls are available to eliminate or minimise exposure to risk factors. The hierarchy of controls must be considered when selecting suitable and appropriate control measures. Refer to section 5.2 Manual Tasks Risk Management Guidelines for examples of manual tasks risk management controls for each level of the hierarchy of controls.

It is most effective to identify and control risks at the planning stage (i.e. when designing equipment or work processes and when deciding on purchasing specifications). Additional costs can be incurred when redesigning or modifying plant or processes once they are being used in the workplace. It is not only more practical but also more cost effective to reduce risks at the design stage.

Less effective control measures include minimising worker's exposure to hazardous manual tasks via task rotation, training, supervision, and personal protective equipment (PPE). These controls offer less protection to workers and rely on workers performing the correct or preferred behaviours.

Consultation with workers who perform the task, the Workplace Health and Safety Coordinator (WHSC) and Health and Safety Representative (HSR), must occur throughout the risk management process. Consulting workers throughout the risk management process helps to ensure controls will be effective, adhered to and will not create new risks.

4. Roles, Responsibilities and Accountabilities

4.1 Obligations of workplaces 

Workplace Health and Safety Regulation sections 34-38 outline the obligations of workplaces: 

  • Identify foreseeable hazards that contribute to risk.

  • Eliminate risk so far as reasonably practicable.

  • Minimise risk so far as reasonably practicable in accordance with hierarchy of controls.

  • Maintain control measures so long as they remain effective.

  • Review risk control measures (and revise if necessary) to ensure work environment is without risks to health and safety.

4.2 Staff responsibilities

WHS Regulation section 60 outlines specific responsibilities for managing hazardous manual tasks:

4.2.1 Head of organisational unit

  • Allocate adequate resources to eliminate or minimise hazardous manual tasks and manage risks to health and safety relating to a musculoskeletal disorder associated with a hazardous manual task.

  • Ensure that adequate resources have been allocated for carrying out the work in accordance with the manual tasks risk assessment.

  • Review the performance of supervisors, staff and students with regard to their OH&S responsibilities for manual tasks.

  • Ensure that appropriate records are kept relating to manual task activities.

4.2.2 Supervisors

  • Supervise the development of manual tasks risk management plans and approve the activities carried out by staff, students and visitors under their supervision.

  • Provide appropriate supervision to ensure that staff, students and visitors comply with the manual tasks risk assessment.

  • Review manual tasks risk management plans and ensure that new plans are developed if the nature of work changes and/or a risk management plan proves to be inappropriate.

  • Provide induction and training for manual tasks participants.

  • Ensure the provision, maintenance and proper use of mechanical assistance associated with manual tasks.

  • Ensure that corrective action is implemented for all accidents and incidents involving manual tasks.

4.2.3 Staff, students' and visitors’ responsibilities for manual tasks

  • Take reasonable care for their own health and safety and not adversely affect the health and safety of others.

  • Comply with reasonable instruction and cooperate with reasonable procedures related to health and safety at the workplace.

  • Participate in development of manual task risk management plans and obtain approval from the supervisor and Head of organisational unit before work commencement.

  • Follow the procedures set out in the manual task risk management plan on a day to day basis.

  • Participate in manual tasks induction and training programs as instructed by the supervisor.

  • Ensure that appropriate mechanical assistance is used.

  • Review and update the manual task risk management plan in relation to change in the work activities, in consultation with the supervisor.

  • Report via the relevant form and/or verbally to the supervisor and OH&S Division any accident, injury or near miss event associated with manual tasks.

4.2.4 Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers

WHS Regulation section 61 outlines specific responsibilities for Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers with regard to managing hazardous manual tasks:

  • Ensure any plant or structure they design, manufacture, import or supply is without risks to health and safety, including elimination (or minimisation so far as reasonably practicable) of hazardous manual tasks associated with the use of the plant or structure.

  • Provide relevant information (operating manual, safe operating procedures, etc.) about features of the plant or structure that eliminate or minimise need for hazardous manual tasks relating to the use of the plant or structure.

5.0 Monitoring, Review and Assurance

UQ HSW Division and Work Health and Safety Coordinators monitor incident and injury reports to identify and manage any hazardous manual tasks in need of additional controls. Incident alerts and safety notices are developed by UQ OHS Network and circulated to University staff and students to minimise risk of injury/incident recurrence.

HSW Division and Work Injury Management review workers compensation claims and request risk assessment and controls when required.

6.0 Recording and Reporting

UQ staff and students should report any incidents, injuries and musculoskeletal symptoms via UQSafe-Incident as per Workplace Injury, Illness and Incident Reporting Procedures. Incidents for visitors or contractors should also be reported and can be entered into the system by someone with a UQ staff or student login.

UQ HSW Division is responsible for reporting incidents and injuries associated wtih hazardous manual tasks to UQ Senior Management. 

7.0 Appendix

Act - Work Health and Safety Act (Qld) 2011.

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.

PPE - Personal Protective Equipment.

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.

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.

Director, Health, Safety and Wellness Mr Jim Carmichael