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Manual handling - building and construction industry

Manual handling injuries result in more lost time within the building and construction industry than any other type of injury. Appropriate manual handling training will reduce the risk of these injuries occurring. This document provides guidance on what the manual handling training requirements are and how they can be implemented within the industry.


  1. Introduction
  2. The manual handling risk management process
  3. Legal obligations
  4. General training
  5. Training resources
  6. Appendix A: Sample job safety analysis

1. Introduction

Construction workers are at a higher risk than most workers of sustaining a manual handling injury. Manual handling injuries are the largest single cause of injury resulting in construction workers having to take time off work. As well as costing millions of dollars per annum these injuries result in pain and suffering to the injured worker and their families and a loss of experience, skills and productivity to the industry.

Manual handling injuries are caused by more than just lifting. Manual handling involves any activity requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain a person, animal or thing. Common manual handling activities that result in injuries among construction workers include completing work with poor postures and lifting, carrying, manoeuvring and placing awkward/heavy loads.

The objectives of this publication are to assist the building and construction industry to reduce the number and severity of manual handling injuries and to reduce, as far as practicable, manual handling hazards in the workplace. This publication intends to achieve the objectives by:

  • raising the level of awareness about the range of issues surrounding manual handling hazards; and
  • providing a coordinated means by which attitudes, behaviours and responses to these hazards can be positively influenced and work processes improved.

The Manual tasks code of practice [PDF 1.02 mb] outlines the training requirements for employees to achieve the skills and knowledge necessary to implement the manual handling risk management process at their workplace and to have the specific skills required to complete the job safely.

2. The manual handling risk management process

The manual handling risk management process involves addressing manual handling hazards systematically through the three steps of:

  • hazard identification (hazard means anything that may potentially result in injury or harm to health);
  • risk assessment (this involves looking at the possibility of injury or harm occurring to a person if exposed to a hazard. A number of manual handling risk factors, for example the weight and size of an object, the work environment and the workers' posture, need to be considered in this step); and
  • risk control (this involves introducing measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of a person being injured or harmed. The order in which controls should be considered is elimination, substitution, isolation, engineering control, administration control, and personal protective equipment; note - more than one control can be used at any given time to reduce the exposure to a manual handling hazard).

Job safety analyses (JSAs) or work method statements are tools that can be used to facilitate and document the manual handling risk management process (see the appendix for a sample JSA). To get the best result everyone involved in the job should be involved in this process.

To facilitate meaningful participation everyone needs to have received adequate training so they can understand and implement the manual handling risk management process. The Manual tasks code of practice should be referred to for more detail on this process.

3. Legal obligations

The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 contains general duties, which describe the responsibilities of people who influence safety and health at work. Employers, employees, self employed persons, persons who have control of workplaces, designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant and hazardous substances and designers and constructors of buildings or structures, all have duties of Care they must fulfil to comply with the legal requirements of the Act.

Employers have a duty of care to provide employees with such information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to perform their work so they are not exposed to hazards. Principal contractors and sub contractors have a shared responsibility to consult with employees and safety and health representatives (if any) and to provide training.

Regulation 3.4 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 specifically details the requirements to manage manual handling hazards in the workplace. The regulation outlines the three-step risk management process of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control. The Manual tasks code of practice [PDF 1.02 mb] , which provides practical advice on how to achieve the requirements of the legislation, outlines manual handling training requirements. The Code states the following types of manual handling training are needed:

  • general training; and
  • task specific training.

4. General training

When should general training take place?

The Manual tasks code of practice [PDF 1.02 mb] says:

during induction training; and
as part of an on-going manual handling risk control program

Manual handling induction training should take place before commencing work on site. Induction training may be provided by the individual employer/main contractor, or as part of a general construction industry safety induction course such as green card or supervisor safety training.

Examples of when general training may occur as part of an ongoing manual handling risk control programme include at toolbox or similar occupational safety and health meetings or when the risk control programme is revised.

Who should attend?

The Manual tasks code of practice [PDF 1.02 mb]  says:

Everyone involved in organising and implementing processes or tasks where hazards have been identified.

To ensure the manual handling risk management process can be successfully implemented, all persons having influence on what, when and how tasks will be undertaken in a construction project need to have the required knowledge and skills. To achieve this, each of the groups listed below may need to attend the training:

  • designers;
  • suppliers/manufacturers;
  • employers/main contractors;
  • supervisors (including those responsible for ordering and coordinating the supply of materials and labour);
  • sub-contractors; and
  • employees.

Elements of training

The Manual tasks code of practice [PDF 1.02 mb] says:

The level of training provided should be comparable to the risk involved. Any training should focus on the specific problems identified in the assessment process. Depending on the degree of risk, participants should have an understanding of some or all of the following:

  • key sections of the Regulations relating to manual handling and this code of practice;
  • the role and responsibilities of the employer, employees and others, and the consultation which should take place between employer and employees in order to identify hazards, and to assess and control risks;
  • the activities included in manual handling, and the types of injuries that can result;
  • basic function of the spine, body postures, types of muscle work, and principles of levers;
  • the relationships between the human body and risk of manual handling injury;
  • the risk management approach to manual handling; and
  • the application of the relevant control strategies.

The training should include information specific to the building and construction industry and where practicable should address site-specific issues. The training should enable participants to identify hazards and assess and control the risk by using tools such as job safety analyses (JSAs) and work method statements before site work commences (see the appendix for a sample JSA). Where the risk control includes specific manual handling methods this needs to be included in the task specific training.

5. Training resources

The following resources are available to assist you to implement a manual handling training programme at your workplace:

For further information on this publication, contact:

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia
Telephone: 9365 7415

Unions WA
Telephone: 9328 7877

Telephone: 9327 8777

Master Builders Association of Western Australia
Telephone: 9476 9800

Housing Industry Association
Telephone: 9492 9200

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Regulations, Codes of practice and Guidance notes can be accessed on this website.

6. Appendix A: Sample job safety analysis

You can view a sample job safety analysis form [PDF 113kb].


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