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Hazardous Manual Handling Can Be a Big Discomfort!

Posted by Richard Forster on 7 August 2018

The recently released WorkSafe Victoria Compliance code for Hazardous manual handling is an important jigsaw piece in the risk management of work that may cause Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD). It provides practical guidance on how to comply with the specific obligations under Victoria's occupational health and safety legislation to manage risks associated with hazardous manual handling. The new code replaces the WorkSafe Victoria Code of Practice for Manual Handling that was released in 2000.

Compliance codes provide practical guidance to duty holders. If a person complies with a provision of a compliance code, they are deemed to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislative duty covered by the code provision. It is important to note that compliance codes are not mandatory, and a duty holder may choose to use some other way to achieve compliance that is either as good as, or better than, the way described in the code.

The new code includes information on:

  • What hazardous manual handling is;
  • Who has duties associated with hazardous manual handling and what those duties are;
  • How employers can identify work that involves hazardous manual handling;
  • How employers can assess the risks (noting that a formal risk assessment is unnecessary if knowledge and understanding about the risk, and how to control it, already exist);
  • Practical control measures that employers may use to control risks; and
  • How designers, manufacturers and suppliers can comply with their duties.

The new code also contains several appendices that cover:

  • The compliance framework;
  • Hazardous manual handling identification sheet;
  • Discomfort Survey;
  • Risk assessment and control worksheet;
  • Controlling MSD risk through design; and
  • Useful resources for controlling the risk of MSD.

The inclusion of a Discomfort Survey is welcome as it builds on the principles of the OHS Act to be proactive and exchange information. It also mirrors what has happened with Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation and supporting codes. Under WHS law, discomfort Surveys have featured in national codes for hazardous manual tasks for a number of years now. Furthermore, in Victoria, the new Discomfort Survey may assist employers to comply with Section 22 1(a) and (b) of the OHS Act 2004. This is a duty that requires employers to monitor the health of employees and conditions in the workplace.

In all states and territories, the employer (or equivalent) must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with their workers and HSRs, if any, when identifying hazards in the workplace. This should include those hazardous manual handling actions that may lead to a MSD.Involving workers and HSRs is vital as they may provide information about work that is difficult, tiring, awkward, dangerous, or causes muscular pain or discomfort.

The Discomfort Survey is designed to assist in the hazard identification process. The survey may also assist when reviewing existing control measures. Asking some basic questions in the survey and encouraging the early reporting of symptoms may assist in better controls being implemented before a MSD injury occurs.

Author: Richard Forster
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