Manual handling procedure


The purpose of this procedure is to protect staff from musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) such as sprains or soft tissue injuries caused by manual handling.


RMIT University-wide



Procedure steps and actions

1. Responsibility

The Head of School/Executive Director is responsible for ensuring compliance with this procedure within their area of authority. All managers who have control over workplaces and activities, including the development and teaching of RMIT courses, building works, administration, are responsible for ensuring the healthy and safety of staff, students, visitors and contactors. Human Resources is responsible for providing advice on manual handling.

2. Procedure

1. All manual handling activities must be identified in the local area, and the relevant risk factors must be used to decide if the task is hazardous. The risk of musculoskeletal disorders must be eliminated or reduced using the hierarchy of controls. The effectiveness of the risk controls must be reviewed. The hazard identification, risk assessment and control process must be undertaken in conjunction with relevant staff and health and safety representative.

2. Hazard Identification - Not all manual handling tasks are hazardous and the identification stage of this process helps to find those tasks that have the potential to cause musculoskeletal disorders. Managers should check tasks in the workplace to see if they involve hazardous manual handling as defined above. Some common manual handling tasks are:

  • Moving tables, resetting class rooms
  • Carrying/unloading/stacking books, materials, wood and fabrics
  • Keyboarding
  • Using notebook computers
  • Carrying books and class materials to various locations
  • Moving and stacking paper
  • Carrying bulk chemicals
  • Setting up exhibitions and displays
  • Signing and note taking for students with disabilities
  • Pushing trolleys
  • Moving and changing water bottles
  • Using ladders and working overhead

3. Risk Assessment

Once tasks that involve hazardous manual handling have been identified, the next stage is to work out if those tasks are likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders. To assess whether a task involving hazardous manual handling is likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders, you need to think about the sources of any risks that are present in the task. For example:

  • Workplace layout;
  • Working position and posture (particularly if required for extended duration);
  • Actions and movements necessary for tasks, including their frequency and duration;
  • Location and position of loads to be lifted, lowered, carried, pushed, pulled or restrained;
  • Weight and dimensions of loads;
  • A load that is difficult or awkward to handle (eg. Shape, temperature, instability, etc);
  • Age, fitness level, disabilities and other factors that are related to the person required to do the task;
  • Working environment and conditions (heat, noise, cold, vibration, slippery surfaces, air quality, weather if working outdoors, etc);
  • Any other relevant considerations (e.g. personal protective equipment that may restrict movement, etc).

Risk Assessment Tool RMIT-SG-003.7 Appendix A, should be used to conduct manual handling risk assessments.

4. Controlling the Risks

Once the risk of MSD in the workplace has been assessed, it is necessary to eliminate or reduce the risk by eliminating the task or altering the source of the risk. This can be done by:

  • Altering the workplace or environmental conditions;
  • Altering the systems of work;
  • Changing the objects used;
  • Using mechanical aids;
  • Providing information, training and instruction (if the above are not practicable).

Workstation assessment guidelines should be used to provide guidance in the correct computer workstation setup requirements RMIT-SG-003.11 Appendix B.

5. Review the Control Measures

Once risk controls have been put in place, managers need to check that they are working correctly and regularly monitor their effectiveness. It is also necessary to conduct regular reviews to identify any new hazardous manual handling tasks introduced into the workplace and to assess whether there have been any changes to the way current tasks are carried out.

Where a staff member sustains a musculoskeletal disorder in the workplace, the legislation requires the employer to investigate the incident, identify and assess the risks of all hazardous manual handling tasks performed by the staff member and to implement suitable controls to prevent such an injury occurring again.

6. Records

Manual handling records to be kept, shall include:

  • Hazard identification and risk assessment reports;
  • Risk control measures and implementation details;
  • Manual handling training records;
  • Equipment modifications and mechanical handling substitutes.






Risk Assessments

Schools / Work unit

Local area

For the life of the activity undertaken plus 10 years

Hard Copy

Manual Training Records

Schools / Work unit

Local area

For the life of the activity undertaken plus 10 years

Hard Copy

Equipment Modifications

Schools / Work unit

Local area

For the life of the equipment plus 10 years

Hard Copy

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