skip navigation

Agricultural workbook

8. Manual handling


1. Facts

The most common cause of lost time in agriculture due to injury is through manual handling. Bad backs are not only painful, but keep you from working easily.

Manual handling injuries result from activities that involve pushing, pulling, bending, twisting and lifting. They can include handling livestock, jumping down from machinery and repetitive movements like loading hay bales onto a trailer.

Most manual handling injuries are cumulative. It is the gradual wear and tear from manual handling that takes its toll on your body. Therefore, the way you handle things on a day to day basis will make a difference. That means trying to maintain a good posture whatever you are doing and not continually lifting and handling heavy, awkward items.

2. Control the risk


These days, more equipment is ergonomically designed. This means it is designed with the user’s needs in mind. Take advantage of these features to make the job easier. For example, take a few minutes to learn what your tractor seat can do – you might be surprised how comfortable and adjustable it can be. Use the steps to climb down from a broad acre tractor or header instead of jumping down.

3. General safety tips

  • Avoid heavy lifting where possible. Take advantage of various lifting devices that you have on your property. Think about ways you can use trolleys, front-end loaders, ute-back cranes and hydraulic tailgates to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Lifting heavy items on and off the back of utes and trucks is a major problem area, because of the weight of the objects and the height of the lift. The use of simple handling equipment can eliminate the risk. For example, when you buy a new ute, consider having a ‘back saver’ or ‘utility’ crane or hydraulic tailgate loader fitted.
  • When you are on a tractor or other equipment, use mirrors and swivel seats to eliminate the need to twist and turn to see.
  • Avoid twisting and bending when standing or sitting at a job. For instance, complete jobs at a waist height workbench rather than on the ground.
  • Avoid double handling. For example, look for ways to reduce the number of times you repeatedly handle objects such as bags of fertiliser, hay bales, livestock, etc. The less work you do, the less chance you’ll suffer a manual handling injury.
  • When you do have to carry and lift numerous items, where possible choose light-weight materials, divide the load up into smaller units, or think about buying in smaller bags. You could also half-fill containers.
  • If manual lifting is the only option, seek assistance when you lift heavy objects. The help of a few mates could save your back.

4. Further information

Related information