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People handling

People handling is a high-risk activity in the health industry. The best way to manage the risks involves a systematic approach.

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People handling relates to workplace activities in which a person is physically moved, supported or restrained. People handling requires someone to use force in order to lift, lower, push, pull or slide another person.

All people handling tasks are a potential source of injury, and associated risks should be assessed and managed.

No worker should fully lift a person, other than a small child, without assistance from mechanical aids, devices or another worker.

Consider the health and safety of both the people doing the handling and the person being handled. Also consider that the person being handled may increase the risk of injury to the worker by their:

  • physical characteristics (such as weight, size, strength, balance, medical condition etc.)
  • state of arousal (consciousness)
  • unpredictable behaviour
  • willingness to assist
  • ability to communicate and understand.

Reducing risks

When people are being handled, the controls selected and applied should take into account all of the sources of risks.

Ways your workplace can reduce risks associated with people handling may include:

  • mobility risk assessment – maximise the person's ability to assist in the move through the use of appropriate advice, mechanical and/or assistive devices
  • moving the person to a place that does not constrain the movement of the worker performing the task, for example, using a shower trolley to bathe a patient
  • assessing the needs of the task (where handling is required), including the specific type of mechanical aids and personnel needed, and planning it in a manner that avoids the hazardous manual task
  • the use of ceiling hoists. Where the use of a hoist requires two or more people, provide adequate supervision and resources to eliminate the risk of workers being under time pressure and attempting the task on their own
  • planning how to handle a person attached to medical or other equipment
  • ensuring the location and storage of mechanical aids and assistive devices allows easy access
  • providing training for the safe use of mechanical aids and assistive devices.