Hazardous manual tasks

  • Hazardous manual tasks can stress the body and lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), a general term for many different kinds of injuries or diseases of the muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues.  

Hazardous manual tasks are very common in the agriculture industry. They can include:

  • repetitive movements (such as when picking fruit or milking cows)
  • repetitive or sustained force (such as when carrying heavy objects over long distances)
  • high or sudden force (such as when using an auger or handling frightened or resistant animals)
  • sustained or awkward postures (such as when removing objects from low-height storage areas)
  • exposure to vibration (such as from farm machinery).

Hazards can come from: 

  • work tasks and how they’re performed 
  • work design and management  
  • the tools, equipment and objects handled, and 
  • the physical work environment. 
PCBUs: Workers:
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have a duty to keep yourself, your workers and your workplace safe from risks associated with manual handling. You must eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Your PCBU has a duty to keep you and your workplace safe from risks associated with manual handling. You also have a duty to take reasonable care of your safety and that of others in the workplace.

The most cost-effective way to manage hazards – and the best way to prevent MSDs – is through good work design. Try to design the work without hazardous manual tasks - for instance, by safely using machinery to move hay bales instead of having workers move them.

If you can’t eliminate the risks arising from a hazardous manual task, you must minimise them as much as possible, for example by: 

  • changing the design or layout of work areas to minimise manual handling  
  • ensuring workspace heights reduce the need for awkward postures 
  • redesigning tasks to minimise manual handling (for example, by using a tractor for land clearing), 
  • reducing the amount of force involved in a manual task (for example, by using a post-hole auger for fencing). 
  • rotating manual tasks between workers to reduce the strain from repetitive movements, and  
  • providing training on correct manual handling procedures.

The model Code of Practice – Hazardous manual tasks explains how to manage the risks of hazardous manual tasks. 

See Part 4.2 of the model WHS Regulations for more information. 

For more information

  • Did you know

    The WHS regulator in your state or territory can provide practical advice, resources and tools to help you be safe when working in agriculture. They can also let you know which WHS laws apply to you.