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Manual tasks in construction

Reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders and building industry capacity to manage these risks are priorities for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

These were also priorities under the National OHS Strategy 2002–2012 and the current Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.

Workers' compensation data shows MSDs continue to be the main serious non-fatal injuries in the construction industry. Approximately a third of serious MSD claims are due to hazardous manual tasks such as lifting, carrying or putting down objects. Learn how to prevent MSDs by downloading our:

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, duty holders must manage these risks to health and safety. Duty holders should:

  • identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk
  • eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable
  • if not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, minimise the risk as far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control
  • maintain the control measure so that it remains effective
  • review risk control measures.

When determining control measures to manage hazardous manual task risks, consider:

  • postures, movements, forces, vibration
  • duration and frequency
  • workplace environmental conditions
  • design of work area
  • layout of the workplace
  • systems of work used
  • nature, size, weight or number of persons, animals or things involved.

Stakeholders must consult and work together to identify and manage the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

Manual handling of plasterboard

Working with plasterboard can require using a large amount of force in awkward postures, which could result in serious injuries including permanent spine damage.

Below are tools and examples to help businesses and workers identify and assess hazardous manual tasks, and to develop safe work procedures (SWP). The examples provided are for handling plasterboard, however these tools can be used for any manual task.

Assessment tools



Safe work procedures examples

The aim of a SWP is to help supervisors, workers and any other persons at the workplace to understand how to carry out a task in a safe and healthy manner. It sets out the work activities in a logical sequence and identifies hazards and describes the control measures.

The information in a SWP is developed after the risk assessment, identification and implementation of suitable controls. This process should include consultation with workers.

As a part of risk management it is important to monitor and review the controls and ensure that any new hazards are managed. If the task remains hazardous, further risk assessment and management will be required.