Safe lifting weights. How much weight can you lift at work?


Here's a comprehensive guide on safe lifting limits in the work environment, plus employee rights and best practices:

Is There a Legal Weight Limit for Lifting at Work in Australia?

Australia, including Queensland, does not have a fixed, nationwide legal limit such as 20kg per person. Instead, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their workers, including managing risks for all employees involved in lifting or moving objects. 

Lifting a heavy load is a “hazardous manual task”. An employer must eliminate the risk arising from hazardous tasks, or, if this is not possible, minimise the risk so far as reasonably practicable. This involves carrying out a risk assessments considering:

  • Weight of the Load – Is it heavy enough to create risk?
  • Nature of the Task – Does it involve awkward postures, long carrying or holding times?
  • Individual Worker Capacity – Strength, physical health, age, experience, even current level of tiredness must be considered.
  • Working Environment – Slippery surfaces, temperature, limited space, all create extra risks beyond load weight.

If it is not reasonably practicable for an employer to eliminate the risk of heavy lifting (eg. using machinery to lift the load), it must implement certain safety “control” measures. This requires a comprehensive assessment, and more detailed instructions on control measures and risk assessments under the work health and safety legislation can be found in the Codes of Practice below. 

What's Considered "Too heavy" at Work?

There is not an exact weight definition of what is considered too heavy but if you feel you are being asked to lift something that is too physically straining or risks injury then you should ask for assistance and raise your concerns.

Tips for Workers Facing Potentially Unsafe Lifting Situations

  1. Speak Up. Don't risk injury! Voice concerns to your supervisor, safety rep, or another higher authority if the weight or task itself seems beyond your capability.
  2. Ask for Help or Equipment. There's no shame in saying "this looks like a two-person job!" or requesting trolleys, hoists, or other gear to reduce stress on your body. Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe work environment.
  3. Report Unresponsive Employers. If you're consistently asked to do overly heavy work and receive no solutions, it may be time to contact:

It is important to remember that workers also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with any reasonable instructions, as far as they are reasonably able, and cooperate with any reasonable health and safety policies or procedures that have been notified to workers.

What is the Weight Limit for Females Lifting at Work?

No laws differentiate safe lifting based on gender. Employers must avoid stereotypes that could amount to discrimination on the basis of gender, and perform safety risk assessments considering the individual worker's capabilities regardless of whether they are male, female, or gender-diverse. 

What's the Two-Person Lift Limit at Work?

Again, no specific maximum weight exists and instead a risk assessment should be carried out to assess the risk, and how the risk will be controlled, for each manual task. If employers deem a load needs two people, that doesn't mean 'x weight = ok'. This decision itself becomes the 'safety control', which should come with training. Ideally:

  • Lifters are roughly similar in height and strength to avoid one carrying more load.
  • Pre-task communication for coordination is vital so one person doesn't drop the load.

Two person example risk assessment example:

A warehouse owner wants to move 100 x 40kg cement bags to another area some 15 metres away.  He has one female and one male staff member who can assist him; however, after assessing the risk involved in asking both staff to carry out this manual task, the owner realises that hiring equipment to move the stock will not only remove risk of injury but also allow the owner time to implement further risk control measures, such as ordering 20kg bags in future or arranging for more permanent storage that will remove the need to move the stock until it is required.

Resources and Support

Last updated:
February 27, 2024

Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For help understanding your rights, please call 1800 960 482 or request a free case review to talk to one of our lawyers today.

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