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Ergonomic hazards

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Ergonomic hazards are physical factors in the environment that may cause musculoskeletal injuries.

Important information for employers on the provision of ‘how to lift’ training in the workplace

The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) organisation has released a position paper (PDF, 897.0 KB) and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 119.6 KB) outlining why ‘how to lift’ training is not an effective method for managing hazardous manual tasks in the workplace.

Types of ergonomic hazards

The main areas of concern for ergonomic hazards include:

  • equipment layout and operation
  • lifting, pushing and pulling (manual handling)
  • lighting
  • noise
  • systems and computer programs
  • task, job and workplace design
  • workstation design and height.

We have developed the Office Safety tool to help you identify health and safety risks in your work or home office.

Visit the Office Safety tool

Eliminate ergonomic hazards

Good work design

Good work design is the most effective way to eliminate hazards as the process considers health and safety issues during the concept and planning phases.

In these early stages you have the best chance to:

  • design out hazards
  • effectively control risks
  • design in efficiencies.

See Safe Work Australia's Principles of Good Work Design for a set of principles and a handbook for good work design we helped produce as well as other guidance.

For more information see:

Participating in good work is beneficial for psychological and physical health and wellbeing. Comcare has developed a suite of resources to help frontline managers and supervisors build capability in designing good work to support their teams.

Manual handling (Lifting, pushing and pulling)

Hazardous manual tasks are where you must lift, lower, push, pull, carry, hold or restrain something. These tasks can include factors which stress the body, such as:

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

For more information see:

Sedentary work (Sitting and standing)

Too much sitting—sitting for longer than 30 minutes without a short break and sitting all day—can harm your health.

Too much sitting is associated with:

  • an increased risk of being overweight
  • physical injuries when posture isn't regularly changed
  • type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • some cancers and depression.

For more information see:

Slips trips and falls

Slips, trips and falls cause thousands of preventable injuries each year. Most common are musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures and dislocations, but more serious injuries can also happen.

Environmental factors which lead to slips, trips and falls are:

  • slippery surfaces following a spill or rain
  • poorly designed or maintained walkways
  • poor lighting on stairs and walkways
  • trip hazards such as badly stored materials.

For more information see:

Work health and safety (WHS) matters

Notify us of an incident

The ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU) – who is usually the employer – is responsible for reporting notifiable incidents to Comcare.

An incident is notifiable if it results from the conduct of the business or undertaking and causes the death of a person, serious injury or serious illness of a person, or is a dangerous incident.

See Responding to an incident for information on how to notify us and other responsibilities such as preserving the site.

Inform us of a WHS concern

If you are a worker or member of the public, you can inform us of a work health and safety (WHS) concern or contact us if you have a WHS enquiry.

Email or call us on 1300 366 979.

Workers are encouraged to speak with their employer or health and safety representative (HSR) about their concern in the first instance, if comfortable to do so. This ensures that the employer is aware of the work health and safety concern and provides them with an opportunity to resolve the issue.

After you contact us, we will respond to you within five business days. We will advise you of actions that can be taken and will also let you know if there is another agency or support you can contact.

Page last reviewed: 07 March 2024

GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 17 Jun 2024