Manual handling and ergonomics

This section places obligations on all managers.

"Manual handling" means using your body to exert force to handle, support or restrain any object, and includes not only lifting and carrying but also repetitive tasks. A manual handling task that has the potential to cause injury is a "hazardous manual handling task". Manual handling includes computer use and workstation ergonomics.

At Deakin the most common manual handling activity is keyboard work but there are a wide range of other manual handling activities that occur every day such as reloading the photocopier, carrying materials to lectures, sorting, lifting, using tools and handling files. Further information is provided in the Manual Handling guidelines (PDF, 66.0 KB) , below and on the WorkSafe website.

Precautions for staff

Help to protect yourself from injury by (discuss with your manager as necessary):

  • if you do more than two hours of keyboard work a day, taking a 10 minute break from such work after each hour
  • if you do keyboard work for more than one hour a day, making sure you have ergonomic furniture
  • if you use a laptop computer, obtaining and using a separate keyboard and mouse
  • not routinely lifting from a standing position things which weigh more than 10 kilograms unless a manual handling assessment of the task has been carried out
  • not routinely lifting from a sitting position things which weigh more than 2 kilograms unless a manual handling assessment of the task has been carried out.

If you spend a few minutes making adjustments to your working posture and set-up, it reduces the risk of back and neck pain as well as more serious conditions. See the Setting up your workstation poster  (PDF, 139.9 KB) (Put it up on your office noticeboard).

Remember to report an injury as soon as possible. For details refer to Injuries and incidents – reporting and following up.

What a manager must do

A manager must:

Hazardous manual handling

Victorian legislation requires that all tasks in the workplace involving hazardous manual handling are identified and the risk of injury assessed. Not all manual handling tasks are hazardous. Hazard identification is the way you can of sift through tasks to find out which ones have the potential to cause injury.

Potentially hazardous manual handling involves any of the following:

  • repetitive or sustained application of force (e.g. pushing or pulling a heavily loaded trolley)
  • repetitive or sustained awkward posture (e.g. carrying out work in a constrained space)
  • repetitive or sustained movement (e.g. keyboard work)
  • application of high force (lifting or moving heavy loads)

Priority in identification and assessment should be given to routine tasks, tasks carried out by a number of people and tasks that staff have concerns about.

If the task is identified as potentially hazardous, a manual handling assessment must be carried out.

Manual handling injuries

The above is essentially a preventative approach where you try to identify problems before they occur. However if someone incurs an injury in manual handling or raises concerns about the activity, a manual handling assessment must be carried out by the supervisor or manager.

Manual handling risk assessment

If the assessment indicates that there is a reasonable likelihood of injury, suitable control or prevention measures must be introduced to reduce the risk as much as practicable. If the hazardous manual handling task cannot be eliminated, standard controls measures include:

  • Redesigning the task, load or workstation
  • Providing mechanical assistance or aids
  • Providing safe working procedures
  • Providing training

In reality, controls are usually a combination of these measures. Further information on risk assessment is provide in the Manual Handling guidelines (PDF, 66.0 KB) and in the Manual Handling section below.

Where ever possible, the assessment of manual handling risks and the implementation of control measures must be carried out in consultation with OHS representatives and the staff affected.

An element of your Faculty's or Division's OHS Plan must cover manual handling.

Ergonomics and computer work

The most common work activity at Deakin is computer work. Many staff (and students) spend up to six hours and sometimes longer sitting in front of a computer. Staying active during the day is the best way of avoiding the downside of computer use and reduces the risk of injury.

Taking regular rest breaks is an effective way of reducing the risk of injuries associated with computer work. A rest break gives your body the opportunity to relax. It can be even better if you use the opportunity for some light exercise such as a walk around the office. Where continual keying is involved a break of 10 minutes in every hour is recommended.

Sit Stand Workstations

Sit stand workstations are one way to reduce the amount of time we spend sitting while at work. Prior to the purchase of a sit stand workstation a Prepurchase Risk Assessment for Furniture and Offices should be undertaken by the local area supervisor to ensure the new equipment does not introduce any new risks to the workplace. Issues to consider include who will use the workstation, is there a privacy issue for those who are seated, are computer points readily available, will all electronic devices be stable when moving the desk up or down and are any crush points created due to other structures above or below the desk. Consider any other specific hazards in the area. Once the risk assessment is completed and hazards controlled, an order is be placed via Procurement for the new equipment. Facilities Services Division's Loose Furniture Procedure provides advice for those responsible for the selection, purchase and financial approval of new equipment such as sit stand work station in existing work areas.   

Where a person has a disability or health condition the University shall consider making reasonable adjustments in accord with relevant advice from the treating health practitioner. Contact should be made with the HWS team for advice in these cases.

Managing manual handling

Office safety

Virtual Office is a risk management tool to help you identify hazards and control risks in an office environment.

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