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Hazardous manual tasks

A hazardous manual task, as defined in the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations), means a task that requires a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain any person, animal or thing involving one or more of the following:

  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • repetitive movement
  • sustained or awkward posture
  • exposure to vibration.

These factors can overload the body and lead to injury.

A musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), as defined in the WHS Regulations, means an injury to, or a disease of, the musculoskeletal system, whether occurring suddenly or over time. Across our lifetime, we can experience aches and pains, back conditions or muscle strains. Some of these may result from our work practices.


Physical hazards include a variety of manual tasks that you do in your everyday activities. Some work practices involving lifting, sustaining postures, and using repetitive movements may increase your risk.

While there are specific regulations addressing HMT, there is a general duty to protect the health and safety of workers in the workplace, which includes physical and psychological health. Organisational factors such as high work load and low job control can reduce the physical resilience of workers and increase the risk of injuries resulting from HMT.

The work health and safety risks associated with performing hazardous manual tasks are injuries associated with:

  • work area design and layout
  • systems of work and work organisation
  • loads, tools, machinery and equipment
  • workplace environment
  • repetitive or sustained application of force
  • repetitive or sustained awkward posture
  • repetitive or sustained movement
  • application of high force
  • exposure to sustained vibration
  • manually handling a person or an animal
  • manually handling unstable or unbalanced loads or loads that are difficult to grasp or hold.

These tasks can lead to the development of a MSD.


Dependant on the context and conditions, but may include for example:

  • Assess your workplace / workstation and identify risks or possible contributing factors
  • Is the task necessary?
  • Provide specialist equipment to assist in lifting/ carrying / moving people or objects
  • Carry smaller loads
  • Take breaks from repetitive work or introduce variation to the work
  • Plan work to avoid the need to lift/carry / move objects when your body is fatigued
  • Lower levels of stress. Tension in muscles long term can lead to injury
  • Working environment is designed or modified to eliminate risks arising from manual handling e.g. altering layout of work area so as to avoid twisting, sideways bending or excessive reaching
  • Provide mechanical aids, or use team lifting
  • Ensure staff are trained in manual handling techniques.


Information SourceContents
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks This code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety
Safe Work Australia – Model Code of Practice – Hazardous Manual Tasks This code provides practical guidance for persons under the WHS Act and Regulations on hazardous manual tasks. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011
see Chapter 3 General risk and workplace management and Part 4.2 Hazardous Manual Tasks
The WHS Regulations set out more detailed requirements to support the duties in the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act
Risk management prompt for hazardous manual tasks This document provides a risk management approach for identifying hazardous manual task risks
The impact of psychosocial issues on musculoskeletal disorders This fact sheet provides an overview of MSD’s and the need to address both physical and psychosocial hazards in preventing and managing these disorders
Worker manual task checklist This checklist can be used by WHS advisors and managers, HSR’s, supervisors or workers to supplement Hazardous Manual Tasks CoP in both identifying and managing sources of risk
Be Upstanding This fact sheet provides an overview of the health risks associated with long periods of sitting, benefits of regular movement and strategies PCBUs and workers can implement to reduce sitting time at work.
Virtual Office—a risk management tool Virtual Office is a risk management tool to help PCBU’s and HSR’s to identify hazards and control risks in an office environment
Page last updated: 10 May 2019