Category: lifting injury

Don’t risk getting in over your head

August 2017

Recently, Woolworths was ordered to pay $231,000 in damages to a worker who aggravated an existing shoulder injury by repeatedly having to lift and stack items from pallets to above his head, and reaching away from his body to collect items from the middle of pallets (Berhane v Woolworths Ltd (2017)). Items on pallets weighed between 3kg – 17kg and the worker testified that in order to meet his performance targets, he was pressured into quick, repetitive movements that accelerated his shoulder condition. As part of the evidence put before the Queensland Court of Appeal, justices were told that 10 to 15 per cent of people aged 40 to 49 years had degenerative rotator cuff disease, and of those, 15 per cent developed bursitis. Figures like that show this type of injury can become common if workers are not monitored in the way they approach pick and packing duties and that companies need robust policies in the place to prevent repetitive strain-type injuries. What can companies do to reduce the risk of workers injuring themselves and potentially having to make massive payouts in damages? Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook, Michael Selinger, says there is nothing specific in the harmonised Work Health and Act Safety Act (Act) or Regulations (Regulations) regarding the storage of objects above head height (the legislation we refer to does not apply in Victoria or Western Australia, although your duties will be similar). Michael says that in the first instance, you should be guided by the general duty under the Act, that is, as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and other persons in the workplace. As part of that duty, you must ensure as far as reasonably practicable, among other things, the provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety, the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work and the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking. Managing risks to health and safety “Depending on your workplace and your operations, there are some foreseeable risks to health and safety when storing objects above head height, such as the risk of falls from ladders when accessing objects and the risk of employees injuring themselves when accessing items stored above head height,” Michael says. In light of the penalty imposed on Woolworths, ideally companies should conduct a risk assessment to identify any reasonably foreseeable risks that may relate to storing objects above head height. Michael says the following five points from part 3.1 of the Regulations should assist PCBUs in managing risks to workers’ health and safety: Identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give risk to risks to health and safety. Eliminate the risk to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable, and where that is not possible, minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Implement control measures if it is not possible to eliminate the risk (see Reg. 36). Ensure that any control measure is maintained (see Reg. 37). Review the control measure (see Reg. 38). He adds that depending on the safety risks posed by storing objects above head height that you have identified for your specific workplace, the following regulations may be relevant to the risks to health and safety: - Part 4.2, which relates specifically to managing the risks to health and safety relating to a musculoskeletal disorder associated with a hazardous manual task; - Part 4.4, which relates to the management of the risk of falls in the workplace, which may be relevant depending on the heights at which objects are stored and the use of ladders. For more plain English explanations of all things relating to workplace health and safety, you need the Health & Safety Handbook. Written by Michael and the expert legal team at Holding Redlich, the Handbook has more than 70 chapters that cover all aspects of workplace health and safety, Alcohol and Other Drugs, through to Hazard Identification, Plant Safety Management and Young Workers. Order your copy today on an obligation-free trial. What do you have to lose? You can find the Regulations here. There are also Codes of Practice (Hazardous Manual Tasks and Managing Risk of Falls at Workplaces that can be found at the Safe Work Australia website.


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

April 2017

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 Code of Practice – Hazardous Manual Tasks (2011) suggests that a hazardous manual task could be identified the characteristic of 'sustained force' which includes pushing or pulling a trolley: Pushing loads is preferable to pulling because it involves less work by the muscles of the lower back, allows maximum use of body weight, less awkward postures and generally allows workers to adopt a forward facing posture, providing better vision in the direction of travel. Reduce the effort required to start the load in motion by: „ using motorised push/pull equipment such as tugs or electric pallet jacks „ using slide sheets to reduce friction when moving patients  positioning trolleys with wheels in the direction of travel „ using large power muscles of the legs and whole body momentum to initiate the push or pull of a load. Reduce the effort to keep the load moving by: „ using motorised hand trucks and trolleys that are as lightly constructed as possible and have large wheels or castors that are sized correctly and roll freely „ using hand trucks or trolleys that have vertical handles, or handles at a height of approximately one metre „ ensuring that hand trucks and trolleys are well maintained „ Reduce the effort needed to stop the load by: indicating the place where loads need to be delivered „ planning the flow of work „ encouraging workers to slow down gradually „ fitting brakes and speed limiters so speed can be controlled, particularly if there is a need to stop quickly so as to avoid other traffic. 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.