Sprains and strains and - known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – are responsible for more than half of workers’ compensation claims in Queensland.
And the biggest cause of musculoskeletal disorders? Heavy lifting.
The answer to all of the above is that there is no straightforward answer!
Yes, heavy objects can legally be lifted in the workplace. The question around what’s legal and what’s not is more to do with making sure you have a safe workplace.
It’s a risk-balancing exercise, and what is clear is that –
And there is no safe way to lift – it will always involve risk.
Any weight has the capacity to pose a risk, depending on a variety of factors – some, as subtle as things like a person’s posture, or the frequency / duration of a seemingly harmless task.
Workers and workplaces should work together to try and eliminate the risks that are inherent in lifting objects.
If removing risk altogether is not possible, then workplaces must manage those risks.
The Queensland government provides this Manual tasks risk management worksheet as a tool to assess and address any manual tasks in your workplace that may be hazardous.
Additionally, under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld) (the Regulation), a person conducting a business or undertaking is required to go through a series of steps to remove or reduce risk.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland also has a Code of Practice for Hazardous manual tasks.
The Regulation requires workplaces to consider all matters that could contribute to MSDs, including:
From there, a workplace should implement the following systematic process:
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.
Remember, as well that under the Work Health and Safety Act (Qld), employers are obligated to ensure workers’ health and safety, and workers must comply with instructions given to that end.
There are, additionally, standards applicable to manual tasks – for example, addressing risk in relation to specific activities such as moving or lifting weighted bags.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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