Managing hazardous manual tasks
In Queensland over 50 per cent of workers’ compensation claims are for musculoskeletal disorders (also known as MSDs or sprains and strains). This film shows how businesses across various industries are identifying and managing hazardous manual tasks.
The film will walk you through a process to help you engage with your workers to identify hazardous manual tasks, assess the risks, identify controls and monitor their suitability to reduce injury, increase productivity and improve workers’ health and wellbeing.
Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 183MB)
- Read transcript
The Laminex Group
Lend Lease – Sunshine Coast University Hospital
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
The Laminex Group
The Laminex Group
[ Start of Transcript ]
It's critical employers have a process to identify and control the work activities that may cause harm.
Laminex is the leading marketer and distributor of board products. A review of our data shows that most of our injuries in the past have occurred from manual handling.
Andrew Tegerdine:Of all the injuries we have on our sites, the majority of our injuries are to do with guys handling materials.
The Mulgowie Farming Company. We have a lot of manual working, a lot of hand movement. So there's a lot of routine, there's a lot of lifting. We'll lift boxes across to conveyors and then people will then lift those boxes to weigh and then put onto pallets.
Business are finding that the productivity gains and the improvements to worker health and safety far outweigh the efforts required to manage hazardous manual tasks.
Our primary focus has been to reduce injuries but we found with some of the control measures that we've put in place we've had an added an unexpected benefit of increased productivity and reduced cost.
The first thing you need to do when looking at managing the risk of hazardous manual tasks is identify what hazards or what activities in your workplace are hazardous. Not all manual handling or manual tasks are hazardous.
A hazardous manual task is a task that involves one or more of the following risk factors – repetitive or sustained force, high or sudden force, repetitive movement, sustained or awkward posture, exposure to vibration.
With the reo the risk with 15 metre bars is it takes two men to carry. The movements they perform are very repetitive, so it tends to be pick up, put down, pick up, put down. They tend to do a lot of twisting, bending. All the bars they pick up they pick up from the ground. So there's a lot of lifting involved.
If I look out in the field we do do some hand harvesting but there's a lot of quite forceful movement. When the beans come through there's a lot of grading. So there's a lot of people assisting the beans, looking at the quality of the beans. So there's a lot of reaching, a lot of lifting with obviously to move 10kg boxes around, stacking them onto pallets.
The more hazardous risks that we found tend to involve a lot of repetitive action. Anything that involves lifting, pulling or pushing, moving awkward shaped product and anything that involves lots of repetitive movement.
In addition there is a direct link between musculoskeletal disorders and occupational stress. Businesses need to control the physical risks and also consider the worker's perception and experience in their environment.
Employers can manage hazardous manual task risks by going through the risk management process. You can identify your hazardous manual tasks by observing workers performing the tasks and see if they involve one or more of the risk factors. Consult with your workers and find out where they think the problems are. Review workplace info such as injury and incident reports and inspection reports and look for trends or problem tasks, assessing new tasks or processes or when changes are made. Management commitment is critical in all steps of the process. It is also important to actively engage with your workers through every step of the process.
We started having conversations. We'll say 'Well if you could have your workplace working differently on those identified risks, how would you do that?'
Once we get out there and the guys get involved they can come up with some better ideas and we can then revise the process and do it in a slightly different way.
We involved the workers who were actually performing the task. We also had our Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator involved in it and various supervisors in the warehouse. Often the best ideas to resolve safety issues come from our workers. We've identified all the manual handling tasks in our warehouse and we put those into a spreadsheet. So that gave us a ranking of our manual handling tasks from the most difficult and most risky down to the most simple and least risky.
To assess if there is a risk of MSD you've got to determine the following. Does the task involve repetitive movement, sustained or awkward postures and repetitive or sustained forces?
If you have one or more of these you then need to assess whether the task is done over a long period of time. By that I mean that the task is done for more than two hours over a whole shift or continuously for more than 30 minutes at a time. Identify if the task involves high or sudden force. You should also identify if the task involves prolonged exposure to vibration.
If any of the risk factors are identified there is a risk of an MSD occurring. You need to identify what is causing these risks and then implement the most appropriate controls. The things that are causing the risk include the work area design and layout, the nature, size weight and number of things handled, the system of work and the environment in which the manual task is performed. These are the things that need to be changed to eliminate or reduce the risk of MSD.
One of the control measures that we wanted to implement was to put in an automated strapping machine and that created some challenges for us. One we had to get some significant investment to do that.
The way we used to strap the packs was on the front of a forklift. That was something else that we really wanted to get rid of there. So just the repetition of doing that over and over again, by bringing in the strapping unit we've eliminated that.
Yeah, we're extremely satisfied. We've been able to remove 80% of our manual strapping from the warehouse, so that's literally hundreds of thousands of manual handling tasks removed annually.
With our 15 metre bars the engineers design generally take two guys to carry with the weight. So we looked at reducing those bar lengths. So we talked the length with the reo fixers doing the initial car park here about what they felt was an optimum length for a bar to be carried. They basically said to us about seven and a half metres was about what they could manage on a deck. So we went back to the engineer and we looked at turning those 15s into seven and a halves to make it easier.
We had some significant injuries in the business using ratchet binders and binder bars.
They just had manual ratchets and they'd put them in a socket and just wrench them up.
Our deliveries involved 20 multiple drops per day. We thought 'There has to be a better way.'
One of the big moves was to try and eliminate that hazard from the workplace and so we went to the pneumatic binders which tension themselves.
They just pull a button, the air comes in, tightens it up and they close the valve down and that's the job done.
The other main thing we looked at here was the concrete supply. So generally on construction projects engineers always specify an 80mm slump on their concrete. That for the guys on the deck is very, very hard to scree because we specified 100mm slump to get away from that problem. That's paid dividends here with the guys working here. It just makes it easier for the guys to scree the concrete and move the concrete and reduces those shoulder strains, back strains that you tend to get with concreters. So we'll get a better quality product at the end because the guys have got more time to take a bit more care over it.
The final step in the process is actually monitoring and review. This is really critical in ensuring that you haven't introduced any new risk factors and that the solution is actually working for the workers.
We continually review our control measures. We also find that sometimes we can improve on original control measures that were put in place.
If you've got the discipline around safety and you understand the basics of safety then what you're going to do is you're going to follow a process. When you follow a process you become disciplined in decisions you make and when you make good decisions obviously it flows on with less effort, less workload.
My advice probably to other contractors would be just take that time at the beginning to think about what you want people to actually do and what you're asking workers to do. Just say to yourself 'Would I be prepared to do that and could I do that?' because if you say 'No, I wouldn't be prepared to do it and I can't do it', then you shouldn't really be expecting someone else to do that.
It's not always easy to eliminate these, but involve your workers in the process. Solutions will come to the fore. Be persistent and you will get the job done.
[End of Transcript]
- Last updated
- 13 October 2016
North Queensland Injury Prevention and Return to Work Conference
The conference is back in 2018 with a new line-up of expert speakers addressing the needs of those on the frontline of safety, rehabilitation and return to work. Register now!