When is a big load too big for a worker to push?

By Jeff Salton on April 20th, 2017

Worker pushing trolley with boxes in warehouse

Manual handling injuries to workers still plague many industries and while some tasks pose obvious risks if undertaken incorrectly, others may not be so apparent.

For instance, what is the maximum weight that can be pushed by a staff member … 20kg, 50kg, 100kg? What if the load isn’t on wheels? Is it much less or the same?

Or none of the above?

Well, there is currently no maximum weight prescribed either by legislation or otherwise that may be pushed by a worker. This is because it has become widely recognised that different people have different physical capabilities, and that a weight of a load to be moved is only one of the factors that may contribute to injury.

However, as a guide, the National Code of Practice for Manual Handling 1990 suggests the following as a general guide for moving heavy loads:

  • risk of injury increases significantly when weights between 16-55kgs are being handled, so these tasks require special attention in risk assessment. Mechanical assistance and/or team lifting should be provided to reduce injury risk in these circumstances; and
  • no person should be required to handle weights over 55kgs without mechanical aids or team lifting.

But again, when not lifting but pushing or moving a load, there are no prescribed maximum weights or methods and each ‘task’ should be assessed on its unique risks.

Managing the risks

Work health and safety legislation provides that hazardous manual tasks have to be identified, and the risks of lifting or moving the load must be managed. That is, the risks of strains, sprains or other injuries must be eliminated, or if that is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be minimised.

Michael Selinger, Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook and partner at Holding Redlich lawyers, says businesses need to evaluate the weight of the load as well as all other relevant factors that may contribute to an injury.

For example, if the load to be moved is on wheels, does it need to be pushed uphill or manoeuvred downhill; is the flooring surface hard or soft; rough or smooth; inside or outside? What obstacles need to be negotiated?

It is therefore recommended that your risk assessments of all manual handling tasks are thorough and that the outcomes are conveyed to workers, so can you ensure your workers are trained to engage in the safest manual handling practices possible and that suitable risk control measures are implemented.

The Portner Press Health & Safety Handbook has a number of chapters that can assist business-owners, managers and health and safety officers to conduct risk assessments and deliver safer outcomes for their workers.

Chapters such as:
H1 – Hazard Identification;
R3 – Risk Assessment;
H4 – Health and Safety policies and procedures;
O1 – Office safety;
T2 – Training and induction.

These are just a handful of useful chapters contained in the Health & Safety Handbook.

Written in plain English by health and safety experts at Holding Redlich lawyers, the Handbook is a must for any business that values safe work and its workers.

Order your copy today on an obligation-free trial.

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