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, 66.0KB) , 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

For more information on workstation ergonomics, conduct a workstation-self assessment or book in for a comprehensive ergonomic assessment.

Laptops and tablets

Although laptops and tablets allow much more flexible computer use they are not designed for prolonged use. If you are using a laptop for more than 30 minutes consider the use of a separate keyboard and mouse. The laptop itself can be used as a monitor. For regular use, docking stations with separate mouse, keyboard and monitor are the recommended arrangement.

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 risk assessment should be undertaken by the local area supervisor to ensure the new equipment does not introduce any new OHS issues 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 Facilities Services 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 from a panel of preferred suppliers.

The following document on Standing Workstations provides more details:

Standing Workstation Guideline (PDF, 334.7 KB)

Reasonable Adjustments (Accommodations)

Where a person has a disability or health condition the University will 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.

Other Resources

Managing manual handling

Managers and supervisors must identify all hazardous manual handling tasks and put into place appropriate control measures.

Supporting forms and worksheets

Useful guidelines, forms and worksheets


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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