Hazards associated with manual tasks will be the most common hazards in your workplace.
Consult with Your Workers
Whenever we’re talking about hazards to do with manual tasks it’s really important that we talk to our workers first.
Your workers will have some important information about the types of tasks that they feel are a bit uncomfortable, a bit hazardous, they might even feel a bit of pain when their doing them.
You can get some really clear, good information just by talking to your workers.
You should also have a look at your incidents.
They’re going to give you plenty of information about the type of tasks people are reporting as being problematic, the type of tasks which have caused injuries in the past, so we’re looking at that.
Observe Your Workers
And finally, you just need to get out there and have a look around and observe people in their workplaces. What you will do is look for specific risk factors.
When we’re talking about risk factors for manual tasks, we need to think about 5 key things.
1. Repetitive or Sustained Force
This is a task where its not particularly heavy but it’s done many times in a row over a long period of time.
You can see in this example that a chap is leaning over and performing work in a slightly sustained bent posture. So he’s applying force over a long period of time. If he was to do that for a couple of minutes, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but the fact that he’s doing it all day long is the thing that makes the big difference there.
2. High or Sudden Force
These are more impactful type forces.
This is where you lift a really heavy object, or push or pull a heavy pallet jack. This is something that can cause injuries straight away.
3. Awkward Postures
This is any task which takes you into a really awkward, bent, or flexed position.
This is a task where the frequency is very high and happens over a longer period of time.
It doesn’t have to be a high force task to be a repetitive and potentially risky task. Anyone who worked in an office workplace and has been using their mouse or keyboard or screen for a long period of time without rest will know just what we’re talking about here. Even those low force tasks can add up over time.
Vibration is not common.
If you’re using tools like jack-hammers or you’re sitting on vibrating machinery such as earth moving equipment, these vibration forces can add up over a period of time and create some risks.
So, once you identify these hazardous type tasks in your workplace, then go ahead and do your risk assessment on those tasks.
There’s various ways that we can do a risk assessment.
One of the specific risk assessment tools is called PErForM.
PErForM is a risk assessment tool that uses the workers to identify their hazardous tasks. The workers come up with a lot of control measures.
The difference between using a specific workplace or manual task risk assessment tool like PErForM and using a standard risk management process, is that you look at the risks for different parts of the body. So, the risk to your back might be different to the risk for your shoulder.
Another one that is a little bit more complex but is still a good tool is called ManTRA.
But both PErForM and ManTRA are available on the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website.
In part 2 we’re going to be looking at the specific control measures that are relevant to manual tasks.